When you watch American television shows, it all seems to wrap neatly up in 45 minutes — an hour when you add in the commercial breaks. There’s a crime, an investigation, a court drama and then a sentence.
Some of the language seems so familiar. There’s always a district attorney, and a black-robed judge, and a jury what seems so politically correct made up of just the right blend of blacks and whites in America. Plea bargains are a thing most of us living beyond the confines of those 50 states seem so unused too. And so too sentencing guidelines.
Where I come from, and in the courts I’ve spent time in between Ireland, Canada and the United Kingdom, sentences are black and white too. Definitive. Ten years. 30 months. 18 years. Punishment that fits the crime. Like, if you killed your wife, for example, even if you were temporarily insane, you could expect a sentence of at least ten years — and you’d deserve every day of it and more. But in the United States, things aren’t so black and white.
Take Bill Cosby.
No seriously, take Bill Cosby, throw him in a cell for ten years, and throw away the key.
But according to sentencing guidelines, the former television star has been sentenced to “three to 10 years” for a series of sexual assaults on a series of women spanning over two decades.
Originally, up to 50 women had come forward to say they were assaulted by the black comedian. The M.O. — that’s another term from American television meaning the way he did it — was the same. They were drugged, then sexually assaulted, came to and remembered little if anything. He got away with it for years. And what’s more, he used his money, power and position to subvert justice and intimidate them while he got away to do it again and again.
Justice, you see, is supposed to be blind. But if you committed a crime and you have the means, you convince a court that black is indeed white, you could almost get away with murder. In Cosby’s case, it was sexual assault. Multiple counts.
But there is justice. And in the case of Dr Huxtable, as Cosby was known for his role in the 1980s prime time hit The Cosby Show, justice has finally caught up with him.
It took two trials and some very brave women to go through brutal cross examination, exposing the most intimate aspects of their personal lives to public account, for Cosby to face what he deserves.
Yes, Cosby is 81 years of age. But justice is indeed blind and, as they say on those American television shows, if you do the crime, you must do the time.
It was my 58th birthday on Tuesday. I will remember it for the rest of my days. It was towards the end of a most arduous trek in Thailand. That day too, in a courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Cosby had a day he will remember for the rest of his life — which at his age will likely be spent in a cell with a steel toilet and basin, a concrete bed and a smelly stained blanket.
He deserves it all, as do all who commit such terrible crimes that prey on victims living and dead.
According to the New York Times, as he listened to his sentence, Cosby leaned back in his seat, staring at the ceiling, and then gazed calmly forward. He declined to address the courtroom before hearing his fate, and did not react when the sentence was announced. Just before 3pm (local time), Cosby was taken into custody wearing an undone white shirt and red suspenders, having removed his tie and jacket.
The actor and comedian was found guilty in April of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee to whom he had been a mentor. The case marked the first high-profile conviction since the #MeToo movement put an international spotlight on women’s stories of abuse, especially in Hollywood, and represented a symbolic victory for the many others who said they were victimised by Cosby over the years.
I do not know what arduous trek has been endured by Constand these past years, but I hope she finds solace in the sentence received by the perp. That’s another television term.
The mighty can indeed fall.
Cosby was the top-grossing television comic star from the 1980s to 1990s, is a man of considerable resources. And as shown all-to-often in the US legal system, all are not created equally: The bigger your bankroll, the better your defence — and offensive capabilities.
Over the past decade, Cosby has initiated counter-suits against the women who made sexual assault claims against him. He was vexatious in his use of the judicial system and defeated them through money, stature and position if nothing else.
That will mean not one iota in the chow line in the pen.
“It is time for justice,” Judge Steven T. O’Neill said as he announced the term in that Norristown courtroom. “Mr Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The day has come. The time has come.” Acknowledging the impact that the case has had on Cosby’s legacy, Judge O’Neill added: “Fallen angels suffer most.”
If only that were always the case.