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First in the Age of Weinstein: “The American Pope” faces up to 30 years in prison for more than 60 cases of harassment

The case of Bill Cosby is the first loud story about the recognition of the American star as guilty of harassment after the scandal in Hollywood. With this episode, the consequences will come

Bill Cosby after the trial of sexual harassment, where he was found guilty. April 27, 2018. Reuters photo
Bill Cosby after the trial of sexual harassment, where he was found guilty. April 27, 2018. Reuters photo

On May 3, 2018, the directors of the American Film Academy expelled actor Bill Cosby after he was found guilty of sexual harassment in late April. The jury ruled that in 2004, the comedian raped former Temple University employee Andrea Constand (Andrea Constand). Almost certainly the judge will agree with the opinion of the jury – in this case, the 80-year-old star faces from 10 to 30 years of prison.

The verdict of the court will be the final of the long-running scandal over sexual harassment of Cosby. More than 60 women accused him of harassment and rape in various years, inflicting a serious blow to his image of an American family man.

The recognition of Cosby guilty of harassment is an important part of the “Harvey Weinstein era”. Unlike other accused, who mostly lost their reputation and work, Cosby risks losing his freedom in old age, almost unable to regain his position in the future. Most likely, this is only the first case in the future chain.

Who is considered Cosby for American culture

The nickname “American Pope”, without which there is not a single story about Bill Cosby, the actor received not just. For almost 40 years, from the 1960s to the 2000s, he remained one of the most popular American comedians, essentially combining generations.

Bill Cosby with actor Robert Culp on the set of the TV show "I'm a Spy", 1960s. Holiday pictures AP
Bill Cosby with actor Robert Culp on the set of the TV show “I’m a Spy”, 1960s. Holiday pictures AP

In the mid-1960s, when racial conflicts intensified in the United States, sometimes turning into pogroms, Kosbi tried to keep neutrality on the stand-stage. For large-scale jokes, he chose the stories of his childhood – the comedian expected that nostalgia for carefree times would become such a bridge between white and black listeners.

In 1965, Cosby was approved for the main role of the comedy TV show “I am a spy”, which made him the first black star on American television. The second wave of success came to him in the 1980s with the launch of the Cosby Show sitcom. The main role of the friendly family man Cliff Huxtable (Cliff Huxtable) with a good sense of humor and a weakness for jazz cosily went well, for which he received the nickname “American Daddy”.

The main characters of the Cosby Show. Getty Photos
The main characters of the Cosby Show. Getty Photos

All eight seasons from 1984 to 1992, the “Cosby Show” stably kept the bar of popularity and is still considered the standard that set the path for the whole genre. Sitkom pleased both white and black spectators, tired of news about racial rallies, riots and ill-being of dark-skinned families. Instead, they were told stories about a model African-American family that faced the same problems as other US residents.

At the peak of the comic’s popularity in the 1990’s, bookstores sold tips for parents with his photo in a Christmas sweater from the Cosby Show. Who would not want to get help from the “American Pope”?

As the former manager of the George W. Bush campaign said, on the night of the presidential vote of 2008 (then Black Barack Obama won), the former head of state said that the way of the African American to the White House paved the “Cosby Show”.

Cosby’s life changed dramatically in 1997, when an accidental robber shot his son, 18-year-old Ennis. This incident was widely covered in the media and was discussed by the public – for admirers of comic creativity this was a personal tragedy that they wanted to share with the idol. The perpetrator of the murder received a life sentence.

The family tragedy forced Cosby to deviate from his career in favor of social activities – he began to uphold the rights of African Americans, raise the theme of poverty in the country, distributed many interviews and spoke at various conferences. As told former actress Lily Bernard, while on the set of most TV shows basically worked whites, the team of one of the top sitcoms of the 1980s consisted of dark-skinned people with a variety of hairstyles, accessories or makeup. Cosby played a role in this.

According to Bernard, at the beginning of the collaboration the comedian supported her and even called her daughter, but one day without any reason he asked to come to his home in New Jersey. There, according to the actress, Cosby secretly poured her sleeping pills and raped her, and when she threatened to go to the police, she heard from the “Pope” the following: “You died for me. I’ll erase you. ”

Who started the case of sexual harassment

If at the peak of glory the audience spoke of Cosby as one of the main symbols of the then America, then behind the scenes his unfair disposition was often discussed. If you believe the testimony of the alleged victims of the comic, he began to harass and molest women almost immediately after gaining fame in the “I’m a spy” in the mid-1960s. According to Sunni Welles, who in those years began the career of the singer, Cosby twice poured sleeping pills into her glass of alcohol and raped her.

The screenwriter Joan Tarshi (Joan Tarshis) told a similar story. In 1969 (at that time she was 19 years old) the comedian invited her home, offered a cocktail, after which she almost fainted, and then raped.

Many of the more than 60 victims of the comic described similar situations: the actor gave them a glass of alcohol, after which they almost immediately fainted and woke up naked in the morning. To some women, Cosby only molested, without permission, kissing them on the lips or touching the chest.

Almost all of these episodes have expired the statute of limitations, so Cosby can not be convicted for them. One of the few exceptions is the Andrea Constance case. According to her, in 2004, the comedian mixed her sedative with a drink, waited until he acted, and raped the girl. After a year of silence and severe depression, she applied to the comic to the police, but soon the criminal case was closed for lack of evidence.

“I felt his hands on my chest, then he crawled into my pants and put his finger between his legs. He took my hand and put it on his cock. I could not move, as if frozen, “- describes the episode of Constant.

Andrea Constand in June 2017. Getty Photos
Andrea Constand in June 2017. Getty Photos
As claimed by Cosby, the girl agreed to sex and behaved calmly – despite this, during the civil suit between the parties in 2006, the comedian paid Constant more than three million dollars in compensation to settle the matter. After that, the public interest in the statement against Cosby fell, and his reputation did not suffer.

In 2015, Constant again demanded to begin proceedings against the comedian. The woman explained that he continues to give lectures around the country and remains an example for imitation of African Americans, while hiding his real essence. The court agreed to publish the materials of the old proceedings of the Cosby case, which led to another wave of discussion of the comedian’s guilt and new accusations.

In June 2017, the court in Philadelphia sent the actor’s case against Constant for reconsideration, because the jury could not reach an agreement on the verdict. They were embarrassed that the alleged victim was constantly confused in the testimony, although some really believed the actor was guilty. At that time, in addition to Constant in sexual harassment and the rape of Cosby, another ten women were accused, but the jury was allowed to listen to the testimony of only one.

Why Cosby was found guilty after reviewing the case

The first trial of the rape case of Constand ended in the summer of 2017 – just before the #MeToo movement , provoked by accusations of sexual harassment of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. After that, the American public and the media began to treat the situations with harassment more closely, almost always supporting the side of the alleged victims.

The movement #MeToo led to the fact that the society doubted the ideal reputation of its idols, which influenced the attitude towards the Cosby case. “I’m not so naive as to think that cultural shifts do not affect the jury’s perceptions, but I’m also confident that the jury will do their best to objectively analyze the evidence,” said former prosecutor Michelle Dempsey, referring to the Cosby case .

Bill Cosby with his wife Camille. Despite the accusations, she continues to support the spouse. Reuters photo
Bill Cosby with his wife Camille. Despite the accusations, she continues to support the spouse. Reuters photo

In addition to this, not only Constance, but also five other comic victims were allowed to perform on the new process. They all told similar stories about how the actor deceived them with a sedative and raped them. As journalists have noted , a growing number of prosecutors always work against the defendant.

On April 27, 2018, a jury in Norristown found Cosby guilty of raping Constance. For each of the three counts, the 80-year-old comedian can receive up to 10 years in prison (that is, up to 30 years in total), but the term may be reduced, given the elderly age of the actor. In addition, the comedian will certainly be able to serve the sentence on all three points at the same time, due to which the prison term will be 10 years. Despite the jury’s decision, Cosby continues to deny the guilt.

Recognition of the comic guilty support many Hollywood stars, including the actress and one of the victims of Harvey Weinstein – Rose McGowan.

What changes will come with the sentence of Cosby

As noted by the Associated Press, the recognition of Cosby guilty of rape based on the claims of the victims – the first such a big deal after the scandal with Harvey Weinstein.

Basically, the accusations against famous people led only to the destruction of their reputation, public censure and the rupture of work contracts, but not to criminal cases. For example, it happened with the actor Kevin Spacey – after several dozen accusations in harassment video service Netflix announced plans to refuse to cooperate with the famous artist, and representatives of the International Emmy said that they would not hand Spacey an honorable award.

In October 2017, about 40 women accused director James Tobacco of harassment and asked to start an investigation against him. In April 2018, the Beverly Hills police reported on the results of the verification of the allegations and reported that they would not start a criminal case because of the expiration of the statute of limitations of harassment cases.

James Tobacco. Getty Photos
James Tobacco. Getty Photos

After numerous accusations Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own company The Weinstein Company and expelled from the American and British film academies. The US and British police have launched investigations into several allegations of harassment against the producer. On May 2, 2018, the New York police reported that there is a strong evidence of Weinstein’s guilt in sexual violence, but so far no official charges have been brought against the producer.

With the recognition of Cosby guilty this situation can change. On May 3, the CNN channel told the story of Jenny’s model (not her real name), which accused Weinstein of rape. Sources of the channel reported that the Los Angeles police are studying at least five such charges, and the case of Jenny is considered the most promising. In a conversation with reporters, she admitted that her confidence in the case against the producer was strengthened after the Cosby process.

Such statements point to cultural and legal changes in the United States. The wave of allegations of sexual harassment in 2017 showed how numerous statements can undermine the reputation of the biggest stars. The confession of Cosby guilty demonstrates how these same statements can lead to a criminal conviction.

According to lawyer and columnist of the Above The Law edition of Toni Messina, the comedian was found guilty not because the investigation had enough evidence, but because all five witnesses (not counting Constant), almost unfamiliar with each other, told the same stories of rape . The influence of the #MeToo movement on the Cosby case is indicated by the fact that both cases are studied by the same judge. This situation can lead to the fact that more victims of sexual violence will appeal not only to the public, but also to the police, says Messina.

However, this story has a downside. The jury of judges and judges, in spite of their impartiality, like everyone is susceptible to the cultural influence of the #MeToo movement . This may lead to the fact that the court will more often examine criminal cases of sexual harassment on the basis of the applications of the victims, but this will also increase the number of convictions in considering such processes. This increases the risk of error and the chance to condemn the innocent.

I see a dangerous way of admitting evidence that should not be [in action], as the jury shifts the burden of proofs to defense to prove the innocence of [the client], instead of the prosecutor proving a lack of evidence, like juries on the wave of movement #MeToo more often recognize guilt than innocence.

Tonya Messina
columnist Above The Law

The date of the hearing at which the sentence of Cosby will be rendered is not yet appointed. The actor is at large on bail of a million dollars, he is forbidden to travel outside the Montgomery County in Maryland.

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