Television icon Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault today in the first celebrity courtroom battle of the #MeToo era.
A combative retrial capped his fall from grace and offered vindication to dozens of women who accused him of abuses.
The frail 80-year-old Cosby – once beloved as ‘America’s Dad’ – could now spend the rest of his life behind bars when he is sentenced for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.
Constand was in the packed courtroom in Norristown, just outside Philadelphia, as the verdict was read out to stifled sobs in the gallery. Cosby’s attorney quickly pledged to appeal.
A criminal conviction and possible prison term is a devastating prospect for the once towering figure in late 20th century American popular culture, the first black actor to grace primetime US television, who hit the big time after growing up as the son of a maid.
Cosby’s first trial ended in June last year with a hung jury.
But on Thursday, the new jury, which deliberated for more than 14 hours over two days, found him guilty on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault, carried out while Constand was unconscious.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.
The pioneering African American actor and entertainer, adored by millions for his defining role on The Cosby Show, sat in silence as the jury foreperson read out the verdict.
But after the jury was led out, the Emmy winner – dogged for years by allegations of similar assaults made by dozens of women – erupted in an expletive-laden tirade as prosecutors argued he was a flight risk.
‘Women are believed’
The verdict was a vindication for the prosecution, with the district attorney who presided over the conviction declaring that “justice has been done” after Cosby “spent decades preying on women.”
“Money and power or who you are will not stop us from a criminal investigation and prosecuting a case,” Kevin Steele told a news conference.
Cosby’s first trial ended with the sequestered jurors hopelessly deadlocked after 52 hours of deliberations, and also for the other women who claimed to have been assaulted by the megastar.
“We are so happy that finally we can say, women are believed, and not only on #MeToo, but in a court of law where they were under oath, where they testified truthfully,” said Gloria Allred, the high-profile lawyer to several of Cosby’s accusers.