- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2018

Bill Cosby, the once-beloved comedian known as America’s favorite dad, is now a convicted sex offender.

The 80-year-old star was found guilty Thursday on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, marking a seminal victory for the #MeToo movement and the resounding fall from grace of an iconic family-friendly celebrity.

A defiant Cosby lashed out at the prosecutor after the jury handed down the retrial verdict, calling him an “a—hole,” while three of his accusers wept with relief as they stumbled from the courtroom in suburban Philadelphia.

He faces 30 years in jail — 10 years on each count — for drugging and molesting Temple University athletics staffer Andrea Constand at his mansion in 2004, a case that initially ended in a mistrial in June.

Cosby attorney Tom Mesereau vowed to appeal, insisting that “we don’t think Mr. Cosby is guilty of anything,” while Gloria Allred, who represents several Cosby accusers, declared at a press conference that “justice has been done.”

“We are so happy that finally, we can say women are believed, and not only on hashtag MeToo,” said Ms. Allred, adding that the verdict made her “the happiest I have been about any court decision in 42 years.”

She was flanked by several women who have also accused Cosby of unwanted sexual contact, including actress Lili Bernard, who said: “This jury has shown that women are worthy of being believed.”

“It is not just a victory for the 62 of us publicly known Cosby survivors, whom Gloria Allred has helped give a voice,” Ms. Bernard said. “It is also a victory for womanhood and it is a victory for all sexual assault survivors, female and male.”

Five women testified at the two-week trial that they were also drugged and molested by Cosby, who remains free on bail until his sentencing in 60 to 90 days.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said his office would seek reimbursement from Cosby for the costs of the prosecution.

“What was revealed through this investigation was a man who had spent decades preying on women that he drugged and sexually assaulted, and a man who had evaded this moment here today for far too long,” said Mr. Steele.

Cosby represents the first major celebrity convicted in the aftermath of the #MeToo phenomenon, which erupted in October with explosive sexual-abuse allegations in the New Yorker and New York Times against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

The crusade has since leveled dozens of celebrities, lawmakers and journalists accused of offenses ranging from boorish comments to sexual assault, ruining careers and reputations while emboldening victims to speak out instead of ignoring or accepting bad behavior.

Mr. Mesereau had accused prosecutors during the trial of attempting to leverage the #MeToo movement and warned jurors about being swept up in the current climate, calling it “prosecution by distraction.”

Celebrities cheered the Cosby verdict, calling it well-deserved and asking why it took so long to convict a man with his history.

Cosby is guilt. I’m sorry if you loved a lie,” said actress Rose McGowan, who accused Mr. Weinstein of raping her at their first meeting more than 20 years ago. “His victims can now exhale.”

The backlash against sexual harassment came with Cosby already fighting off allegations of sexual misconduct, some of which date back to the earliest days of his spectacular show-business career.

He broke racial barriers by co-starring from 1965-68 in NBC’s “I Spy,” making him the first black actor to star in a network show, following it up with several short-lived comedy and variety shows in the 1970s.

His reputation as a family man grew with gigs as the longtime popular pitchman for Jell-O pudding and creator of the “Fat Albert” children’s cartoon series.

His television career culminated in the 1984-92 breakout hit “The Cosby Show,” in which he played affable Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the father of five children modeled on Cosby’s own five kids with his wife of 54 years, Camille Cosby.

Shortly after Thursday’s verdict, Bounce TV announced that it would pull reruns of “The Cosby Show” from its schedule.

During the trial, attorneys for Cosby argued that the sexual encounter with Ms. Constand was consensual and that he had been targeted by women seeking to frame him in exchange for money.

The star defense witness was Marguerite Jackson, a Temple University academic adviser who said Ms. Constand, a former university basketball administrator, once spoke with her about setting up a celebrity for financial gain.

Ms. Constand later sued Cosby and reached a $3.4 million settlement that included a confidentiality agreement, but the document was unsealed in 2015 after the criminal charges were filed.

In a deposition from that case, Cosby admitted he gave women Quaaludes, a popular party drug in the 1970s before it was banned, in the same manner that others might offer them drinks.

He said that he gave Ms. Constand the over-the-counter drug Benadryl to help her relax, but she testified that the three blue pills she took rendered her immobile and unable to fight him off as he touched her and masturbated using her hand.

“He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes,” Mr. Steele said. “And now we really know today who was behind that act, who the real Bill Cosby was.”

• This story was based in part on wire service reports.

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