US television icon Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault Thursday in the first celebrity courtroom battle of the #MeToo era – a combative retrial that capped his fall from grace and offered vindication to scores of women who accused him of abuses.
The frail, 80-year-old Cosby – once beloved as “America’s Dad” – risks spending the rest of his life behind bars when he is sentenced for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.
Cosby sat emotionless in the packed courtroom in Norristown, just outside Philadelphia, as the verdict was read out to stifled sobs and gasps in the gallery. Cosby’s attorney vowed to appeal.
It was a devastating downfall for the once towering figure in late 20th century American popular culture, the first black actor to grace primetime US television, hitting the big time after growing up as the son of a maid.
Constand, a 45-year-old Canadian former basketball player turned massage therapist, sat in court to witness the moment when Cosby was reduced to a convicted sex offender staring prison in the face.
After the jury was led out, the Emmy winner – dogged by allegations of similar assaults against 60 women – erupted in an expletive-laden tirade when prosecutors demanded his $1 million bail be revoked.
“He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole!” yelled the actor, after the district attorney claimed he could flee anywhere in the world by private jet.
“I’m not going to simply lock him up right now,” hit back an irritated Judge Steven O’Neill, referencing Cosby’s age and medical condition.
Cosby’s first trial ended last June with a hung jury, hopelessly deadlocked after 52 hours of deliberations.
But on Thursday, a new sequestered panel, which deliberated for more than 14 hours over two days, found him guilty on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. O’Neill is expected to hand down a sentence in the next 60 to 90 days.
The pioneering African American actor and entertainer, adored by millions for his defining role on “The Cosby Show,” has now been ordered by the judge not to leave his home until sentencing.