Bill Cosby sentenced today?

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby

NEW YORK • Will he go to jail?

Bill Cosby, 81, could find out when he arrives in court today to be sentenced for sexual assault.

Judge Steven T. O'Neill is expected to announce his decision either today or tomorrow.

He is likely to survey a courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, that is filled with many of the dozens of women who said the entertainer drugged and assaulted not just Ms Andrea Constand, but them too.

A large number of these women expect a long prison sentence, one that will put an exclamation mark on the first major conviction of the #MeToo era.

Prosecutors have said they will push for the maximum 30-year prison term - 10 years for each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

But Cosby's lawyers are sure to fight that, depicting him as an old man with failing vision, incapable of assaulting another woman or surviving a long sentence.

The judge will have to consider state guidelines that recommend, but do not mandate, appropriate sentence ranges.

A New York Times analysis of Pennsylvania court data for the past five years found that offenders convicted of crimes similar to Cosby's were typically given sentences of two to five years.

A spokesman said Cosby would ask to remain free on bail, post-sentencing, while he pursues his appeal, a process that could take years.

One of the defence lawyers' anticipated arguments for appeal revolves around whether the judge should have recused himself because his wife is a therapist who works with sexual-assault victims at the University of Pennsylvania.

A more potent issue, experts said, would be the anticipated challenge to the judge's ruling that allowed five additional women to provide their accounts in court.

Their testimony bolstered that of Ms Constand, a former Temple University employee whom Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting.

Testimony concerning prior alleged crimes is allowed in Pennsylvania if, among other conditions, it demonstrates a signature pattern of abuse. But its inclusion is extremely rare.

Judge O'Neill never explained why he allowed the five women to testify this year, after permitting only one additional accuser to speak at the first trial last year. That ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2018, with the headline 'Bill Cosby sentenced today?'. Print Edition | Subscribe