NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania—Bill Cosby was found guilty Thursday on all counts of aggravated indecent assault for the night Andrea Constand said the famous comedian drugged and sexually assaulted her inside his Cheltenham home. It was the second trial for Cosby on these charges; the first one, held last year, ended in a mistrial.
It’s expected to be dubbed the first court victory of the #MeToo movement, and follows a legal defense strategy by Cosby’s defense team that embodied many cultural stereotypes that #MeToo was created to fight.
The decision capped years of women coming forward to say that Cosby invited them to meet with him for mentoring, drugged them to the point of unconsciousness, and performed sex acts on their limp bodies. But this was the only criminal case brought against Cosby, in part due to the short statute of limitations on sexual assault spread across various states. That’s why several women who have spoken out against Cosby also became active in lobbying to expand those limitations.
While the charges against Cosby were the same this time, prosecutors presented substantially more evidence. Before the trial began, District Attorney Kevin Steele asked to present 19 other women, who say they, too, were drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby, as witnesses. Judge Steven O’Neill allowed prosecutors to present five of these women as “prior bad act” witnesses. In the previous trial, only one other woman who said she was a victim of Cosby was allowed to take the stand.
Repeatedly during the trial and in the jury instructions, O’Neill reminded jurors that they could use the testimony of the five women—Heidi Thomas, Chelan Lasha, Janice Baker-Kinney, Janice Dickinson, and Lise-Lotte Lublin—for a limited purpose, to show a “common plan, scheme, or design.” It couldn’t be used any other way.
All five women endured brutal cross-examinations by the Cosby legal defense team, who accused each one of them of being little more than opportunistic gold diggers out for Cosby’s riches. The most brutal cross-examinations, though, were for the Constand women themselves.
Andrea Constand and her mother, Gianna, both testified. The defense insisted through its line of questioning that Andrea Constand was a con artist running a pyramid scheme at Temple and desperate to become a famous broadcaster. Gianna Constand, meanwhile, spent more than three hours on the stand doing her best to avoid leading questions meant to slime her daughter.
Whereas last year’s defense team was brutal and forceful, there were certain low blows that they didn’t take. This time around, there seemed to be no bar for team Cosby, inside or outside the courthouse. Inside the courthouse, they requested that O’Neill recuse himself because of his wife’s work with sexual assault victims. Outside the courthouse, Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt dished out insults to nearly everyone else involved. He called lawyer Gloria Allred “Gloria Awful-red,” her daughter, Lisa Bloom, “Lisa ‘Blasphemous’ Bloom,” and the district attorney “an extortionist.” When publisher Judith Regan called the defense team “sleazy” for its cross-examination tactics, Wyatt gave a statement implying she was going to hell with her “gasoline stilettos.”
And in the defense’s closing arguments, defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss suggested an unnamed “movement,” which sure sounded like #MeToo, could be a witch hunt. From her portion of closing arguments:
“Questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim. Gut feelings are not rational decisions. Mob rule is not due process and just as we have had horrible, horrible crimes in our history, we’ve also had horrible, horrible period of time where emotion and hatred and fear overwhelmed us. Witch hunts. Lynchings. McCarthyism. When you join a movement, based primarily on emotions and anger, you don’t change a damn thing. Which is why each single case must be examined on its merits. All of the evidence must be weighed and the bottom line here is, if you don’t believe Andrea Constand you must acquit Mr. Cosby.”
Prosecutor Kristen Feden pushed back on that in her closing, calling out Bliss’s tactics as the reason so many rape victims never report.
“The character assassinations that Miss Bliss put those women through was utterly shameful, utterly shameful. And then she talks about women,” Feden said. “She’s the exact reason why women and victims and men of sexual assault don’t report these crimes.”