Bill Cosby found guilty of drugging, sexually assaulting woman
Bill Cosby has been found guilty of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America's Dad.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual.
A jury has found Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman.
Shortly after the verdict, Cosby was released on $US1 million ($1.3 million) bail pending an appeal.
When a prosecutor argued against bail because Cosby was a flight risk and had a plane, the disgraced actor yelled out: "He doesn’t have a plane, you a—hole. I'm sick of it, you a—hole."
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too.
One of those women asked him through her tears: "You remember, don't you, Mr Cosby?"
Andrea Constand, pictured arriving at court, said she was in and out of consciousness while Bill Cosby violated her.
Cosby's retrial took place against the backdrop of #MeToo, the movement against sexual misconduct that has taken down powerful men in rapid succession, among them Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Senator Al Franken.
The jurors all indicated they were aware of #MeToo but said before the trial they could remain impartial. Cosby's lawyers slammed #MeToo, calling Cosby its victim and likening it to a witch hunt or a lynching.
After failing to win a conviction last year, prosecutors had more courtroom weapons at their disposal for the retrial. The other accusers' testimony helped move the case beyond a he-said, she-said, allowing prosecutors to argue that Cosby was a menace to women long before he met Constand. Only one other accuser was permitted to testify at Cosby's first trial.
Cosby's new defence team, led by the late Michael Jackson's lawyer Tom Mesereau, launched a highly aggressive attack on Constand and the other women.
Their star witness, a longtime Temple employee, testified that Constand once spoke of setting up a prominent person and suing. Constand sued Cosby after prosecutors initially declined to file charges, settling with him for nearly $US3.4 million over a decade ago.
"You're dealing with a pathological liar," Mesereau told the jury.
His colleague on the defence team, Katheen Bliss, derided the other accusers as home-wreckers and suggested they made up their stories in a bid for money and fame.
But Cosby himself had long ago confirmed sordid revelations about drugs and extramarital sex.
In a deposition he gave over a decade ago as part of Constand's lawsuit, Cosby acknowledged he had obtained quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with, "the same as a person would say, 'Have a drink."' The sedative was a popular party drug before the US banned it more than 30 years ago.
Cosby also acknowledged giving pills to Constand before their sexual encounter. But he identified them as the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl and insisted they were meant to help her relax.
The entertainer broke racial barriers as the first black actor to star in a network show, I Spy, in the 1960s. He created the top-ranked Cosby Show two decades later. He also found success with his Fat Albert animated TV show and served as pitchman for Jello-O pudding.
Later in his career, he attracted controversy for lecturing about social dysfunction in poor black neighbourhoods, railing against young people stealing things and wearing baggy pants.
It was Cosby's reputation as a public moralist that prompted a federal judge, acting in response to a request from The Associated Press, to unseal portions of the deposition.
Its release helped destroy the Cosby Show star's career and good-guy image. It also prompted authorities to reopen the criminal investigation, and he was charged in late 2015.
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