US television icon Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault on 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.
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.
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 verdict ended a winning streak for Los Angeles lawyer Tom Mesereau, who leapt to fame for getting Michael Jackson acquitted of child molestation in 2005, but whose defense that hinged on his portrayal of Constand as a money-grabbing con artist ultimately failed.
“We don’t think Mr. Cosby is guilty of anything and the fight is not over,” he told reporters.
A case with no physical evidence, the trial essentially boiled down to he-said, she-said, and what the jury thought of Constand’s credibility.