There is no doubt in my mind that Bill Cosby did a great deal of what his female accusers say he did — i.e., drug and sexually assault them. There are dozens of accusers with similar stories, and the tales go back for decades. I confess, I didn’t pay much attention to the story until one night, while channel surfing, I caught Cosby doing his comedy act and felt a cold brace of certainty that this man really hates women. Stars can have their pick of willing females; Cosby perversely preferred to trick, dope, and violate unwitting victims. His goal was not his own satisfaction so much as their debasement.
Since an Associated Press suit prompted a federal judge to unseal a document last year in which Cosby, now 78, admitted to giving women drugs and having sex with them — all consensual, he said — the comedian effectively has been found guilty in the court of public opinion. His once-sterling reputation is tarnished beyond repair, and his career effectively finished. He had settled a civil lawsuit — an admission, of sorts, of his liability. Cosby deserves the public shaming that will haunt his remaining time on earth.
Still, I think the prosecution of Cosby in a Norristown, Pennsylvania, court for the alleged 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, then 30, goes too far.
For one thing, there is no physical evidence because Constand waited a year to report the incident to authorities. Ergo, then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor said there was not enough “credible” evidence to justify a prosecution.
For another, the prosecution is based on information obtained because prosecutors had made it known they would not use it in this case. Constand also filed a suit in civil court. Castor announced he would not prosecute in order to prompt Cosby to cooperate with Constand’s attorneys and not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Constand’s attorney then cross-examined Cosby under oath for four days — which netted the document mentioned above. Cosby settled the civil suit under an agreement that paid Constand an undisclosed sum and left the deposition sealed.
The case became a political football when a judge unsealed the deposition. As the DA ran for re-election, challenger Kevin Steele pledged to prosecute Cosby. Steele won the race and then charged Cosby, who denies any wrongdoing, with assault. If convicted, Cosby could spend up to 30 years in prison.
“This is a very messy situation,” George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley told me. On the one hand, Cosby’s attorneys never got prosecutors to sign a deal not to use the deposition in criminal court. On the other hand, Turley noted, such deals are “more common than people think. Most of these cases involve a handshake agreement between a prosecutor and a defense attorney.”
A district attorney prodded a private citizen to forfeit a constitutional right based on an agreement that, Castor later testified, he believed was binding “for all time.” If a different prosecutor can tear up that agreement just because he doesn’t like it, Turley noted, it’s almost a “bait and switch.” The biggest kid on the block can take back his marbles on a whim.
You can argue that if the government is going to renege on a deal, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving fellow. But what if the next person isn’t so deserving?
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