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Read our latest newsletter: February 2017.

Will the 80-year-old Bill Cosby do time? Probably, expert says

Bill Cosby became the nation's highest-profile convicted sex offender Thursday when a Pennsylvania jury found him guilty of drugging and molesting a woman in 2004.

But will the 80-year-old entertainer's age persuade the presiding judge to spare him prison term?

Not likely, one prominent defense lawyer said. 

"Based on Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines it is unlikely he will avoid prison," said Brad Winnick, incoming president of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in an e-mail after the verdict. "[There's] certainly a chance his age acts to mitigate the sentence. But not likely enough for probation."

A jury outside Philadelphia convicted Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, less than a year after another jury deadlocked on the charges. Andre Constand testified that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her inside his suburban Philadelphia home. 

He could serve up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts.

Peter E. Kratsa, president-elect of the Pennsylvania defense lawyers association, provided details on the sentencing guidelines but declined to hazard a guess on what the judge will ultimately decide. 

In an e-mail, he said he wasn't certain if "the counts will merge at sentencing, or if he can be seperately sentenced on each count. If he can be separately sentenced, the sentences can be imposed.

He said sentencing guidelines at the time of the offenses "range [from] 22 to 36 months in prison. The 'mitigated' range of the guidelines is 10 months. The 'aggravated' range of the guidelines is 48 months."

The guidelines, Kratsa said, "are advisory, not mandatory although judges tend to generally sentence within them. It is possible to argue for a sentence outside of, and below, the guidelines (i.e. probation or house arrest) arguing mitigating factors of the specific case and defendant."

Debra Robbin, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., the Masschusetts Coalition against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, said Cosby's sentence isn't the most important element of the case. 

"I think what is more important here is to focus on the courage and persistence of the survivors," Robbin said by phone, referring to Constand and the five other women who testified that Cosby assaulted them. "This would not have happened without them. And it's a very heroic gesture that they use their voices, and I think  that many other survivors find that inspiring."

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, and he still faces civil lawsuits from several plaintiffs in Massachusetts who allege that he assaulted and later libeled them when he denied their claims through his representatives. 

Cosby has denied the allegations.


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