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Bill Cosby’s sentence for sexual assault: Too lenient? Or too heavy-handed?

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2018 | Sex Crimes |

His lighthearted, family-friendly image long gone, comedian Bill Cosby is serving a prison sentence of three to ten years at a state correctional institute in Pennsylvania. The sentence came down months after Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a young woman. With good behavior, he’ll likely serve only three years.

The sentence comes at the height of the #MeToo movement. Faced with similar accusations by 59 other women, the frail, blind, 81-year-old Cosby hasn’t garnered much sympathy in the public eye. And that’s understandable, given the allegations. They paint a disturbing picture of a double life. On the one hand: the comedian, actor and family favorite we all knew and loved. On the other: a serial rapist who allegedly drugged and assaulted dozens of women over the course of decades.

Were the penalties too light?

With three felony convictions for aggravated indecent assault, Cosby stood to face up to 30 years in prison. The prosecution agreed to combine the three counts for sentencing purposes, bringing the max down to 10. And, according to at least one analysis, that’s in line with the average maximum sentence for similar offenses nationwide.

In addition to prison time, Cosby faces lifetime registration as a sex offender. He was deemed a sexually violent predator and ordered to participate in a treatment program for the rest of his life.

Overall, the sentence represents a middle-of-the-road approach. The judge rejected the prosecution’s bid for a five-year minimum. He also rejected the defense’s argument that Cosby should be out on bail pending appeal.

Throughout trial and sentencing, Judge O’Neill emphasized that Cosby shouldn’t be treated differently on account of his celebrity status. That level-handed treatment cuts both ways: While he certainly shouldn’t get leniency just because he’s a high-profile figure, neither should he get harsher treatment on that account.


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