A judge in Pennsylvania sentenced Bill Cosby to a minimum of three years in prison on Tuesday and ruled he should be classified as a sexually violent predator, meaning a lifetime of registering as a sex offender, community notification, and counseling for the former comedian.
Judge Steven T. O’Neill gave Cosby a maximum of 10 years of prison, the most allowed for the conviction.
Prosecutors had asked for five to 10 years in prison, contending that Cosby, at 81, was still capable of drugging women and assaulting them. According to the Associated Press, the state argued that his sentence should send the message that “nobody’s above the law.”
His conviction on three counts originally carried up to 30 years, but the prosecution and defense agreed to merge the three counts for the sentencing, meaning he then faced a maximum of 10 years. Even then, it seemed unlikely because of his age, lack of a criminal history, and declining health that a judge would give him the maximum sentence. State guidelines indicate that for a defendant with no prior convictions, one to four years would be standard.
Cosby’s attorneys, citing his blindness and dependence on others, argued for house arrest, saying that because of his physical limitations he was no longer a danger and that a prison sentence would cause “excessive hardship.” But while his age worked in his favor, he was at risk of being sentenced more harshly because of his lack of public remorse—he never publicly apologized.
His conviction came from a 2017 case in which Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball administrator, accused Cosby of drugging and molesting her in 2004. During the trial, five other women testified to being drugged and assaulted by Cosby, but it still ended after six days with a deadlocked jury. In the subsequent retrial in April, he was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
More than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, but only Constand’s case led to a criminal case. Many of the accusations fell outside the statute of limitations.
On Monday, Constand appeared briefly on the stand to say she wanted “justice as the court sees fit.” Her parents and sister also testified, speaking to the emotional toll on Constand, saying she became “depressed” and “detached” after the assault.
On Tuesday, prosecutors released her victim impact statement, which was not read in court. In the statement, she wrote of the years of trauma she experienced, and of not being able to eat, sleep, or socialize with friends and family after the assault. She also wrote of recurring nightmares. “I dreamed that another woman was being assaulted right in front of me and it was all my fault,” she wrote. “In the dream, I was consumed with guilt, and pretty soon, that agonizing feeling spilled over into my waking hours too.”
She described herself now as “a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward” because she lost her “health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others.”
She also wrote of being discredited as a gold-digger and liar and of the pain of reliving the experience during the trials. “I have often asked myself why the burden of being the sole witness in two criminal trials had to fall to me,” she wrote.
The first day of the hearing centered around the question of whether Cosby should be designated a “sexually violent predator.” A state panel argued on Monday that Cosby has shown a pattern of predatory behavior. Cosby declined to participate in the panel’s evaluation, but an expert witness for the state who reviewed trial transcripts and other reports argued at the sentencing hearing that Cosby had a mental disorder in which he lacked self-control and is likely to reoffend, according to CNN.
A psychologist testifying for the defense said on Tuesday that the chances of Cosby reoffending were “extraordinarily low” given his age and physical limitations, according to the AP.
Cosby did not speak during the sentencing hearing or call character witnesses on his behalf. None of Cosby’s other accusers took the stand either, but several were in the courtroom, according to reports from the courtroom.