August 4, 2021

After a guilty verdict, what happens next for Bill Cosby?

The jury in Bill Cosby’s retrial found him guilty of aggravated assault Thursday after about 12 hours of deliberation.

His conviction on all three counts means they determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the comedian molested Temple University staffer Andrea Constand during a visit to his Philadelphia-area home in 2004, despite the fact that she could not consent because the pills he gave her rendered her unconscious.

But now that the verdict is in, what happens next? Here’s what we know.

Cosby is not going to jail — at least not yet.

Judge Steven O’Neill allowed the comedian, who had already posted a $1 million bond, to remain free on bail until his sentencing but said he must remain in Pennsylvania until then. A sentencing date has not been announced.

“It’s supposed to happen within 90 days (of conviction) but if all the parties agree it happens after that, it’s fine,” says Brian Zeiger, a defense lawyer who tries cases in Montgomery County, Pa., and the neighboring Philadelphia and Bucks counties.

Michael Donio, a retired New Jersey superior court judge, says the next legal battle will be at sentencing. If Cosby is sentenced to prison, he’d go directly behind bars. However, Donio expects his lawyers to argue he should be out on bond during the appeal. Such a request, he said, is usually not granted.

How much time might he serve?

Cosby, who is 80, blind and in declining health, was convicted on three counts, each carrying up to 10 years in prison, so any jail time could be a death sentence.

According to state law, O’Neill can sentence Cosby to either a consecutive prison term (i.e., back-to-back terms) or concurrent ones, meaning he would serve them all at the same time, with the longest term determining the duration of his prison stay.

“I would think that it would be a concurrent situation,” says Zeiger, who has tried numerous sex-offense cases. In his experience, whether a defendant gets concurrent sentencing “depends on the judge and the number of victims. In this case, they only proceeded with one. But I think they would also consider his age.”

Fellow Philadelphia-area defense attorney Steven Fairlie says Cosby is likely to get a concurrent sentence because the charges all stem from the same crime.

But Fairlie also points out that possible victim testimony at the sentencing hearing and Cosby’s outburst following the guilty verdict — Cosby stood up and shouted vulgarities at Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele — could lead the judge to consider a harsher sentence of up to 10 years.

“Hurling insults at the district attorney is not going to help his case,” he says.

The length of Cosby’s sentence will determine where he serves time.

Zeiger says that if Cosby’s sentence is less than one or two years, he’ll likely serve it at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Eagleville, Pa., or through house arrest. He discounts the possibility of work release, citing Cosby’s age.

“If it’s one to two years or more, he would go into the state system in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he says, “and then the trial court would lose jurisdiction over his custody.”

Donio says Cosby’s lawyers will likely argue a prison will be unable to take care of Cosby, who has said he is completely blind. If they can successfully argue this position, and a jail assessment agrees, Cosby could get house arrest or probation.

The defense team is vowing to appeal his conviction.

As he left the courthouse Thursday, lead defense attorney Tom Mesereau vowed, “The fight is not over,” indicating his intent to appeal. However, an appeal cannot proceed until Cosby is sentenced.

“After the day of sentencing, you have 10 days to file a motion for reconsideration for certain things, like there wasn’t enough evidence to convict or something is wrong with the sentencing,” Zeiger explains. “The 10-day motion stops the clock on everything. … It’s there intentionally for certain things that allow a trial court to correct simple mistakes.”

Next, he says, the judge would have the power to correct the mistake pointed out in the 10-day motion and remedy it. “It could be a new trial; it could be new sentencing. If the 10-day motion is denied, the case moves to a higher court and the judge then just has to write an opinion explaining why he ruled a certain way and then the superior court has jurisdiction at that point.”

He adds that if the issues the defense plans to raise on appeal don’t fit the parameters of a 10-day motion, they can immediately file a notice of appeal within 30 days of sentencing. “But if you don’t put (the tiny mistakes) in the 10-day motion, you can’t appeal them at a later date.”

The civil cases against him will proceed.

“What’s next?” attorney Lisa Bloom tweeted after the guilty verdict came in. “My defamation case on behalf of Janice Dickinson against Bill Cosby, which we’ve been fighting and winning for three-plus years, goes on.”

She added, “Mr. Cosby, I’m looking forward to taking your deposition.”

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