Editorials

#MeToo, no doubt, made a difference between Cosby’s first and second trials

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Bill Cosby after the guilty verdict in his sexual assault retrial on Thursday. He faces up to 30 years in prison at sentencing.
Bill Cosby after the guilty verdict in his sexual assault retrial on Thursday. He faces up to 30 years in prison at sentencing. Getty Images

In the past year, as the #MeToo movement has taken hold across the nation, many prominent men have been brought down, they have lost their standing, job and reputation for allegations that they mistreated, bullied or sexually assaulted women.

Not until Thursday had a man of such prestige been convicted of sexually assaulting a woman, in a nation now under the influence of this awakening of women’s rights.

Bill Cosby, trailblazer, comedian and the Dad we all wanted, initially faced sexual assault charges in court last June, but jurors could not reach a unanimous decision after 52 hours of deliberation. The judge declared it a mistrial.

But Cosby’s first trial occurred before the movement exploded with allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. It’s not a stretch to believe the his celebrity contributed to reasonable doubt.

But his retrial, which ended Thursday with a conviction, was a different story.

Legal observers say that the convictions came in a changed — and charged — atmosphere. The #MeToo movement and the wave of sexual-assault allegations lodged against prominent media figures washed over the nation from coast to coast between Cosby’s first and second trials.

A Pennsylvania jury found Cosby, 80, guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, setting up the comic legend for the possibility of years of imprisonment for drugging and sexually violating a woman at his Philadelphia home in 2004.

In the name of more than 60 women who have since accused him, Cosby, once revered as “America’s Dad,” was convicted of assaulting Andrea Constand, a Temple University women’s basketball administrator whom he was mentoring.

This time around, a jury of seven men and five women listened to more than two weeks of testimony from 25 witnesses. Some cried on the stand recounting how Cosby attacked them while they were drugged. It was an act that he allegedly repeated dozens of times. Disgusting.

Cosby broke racial barriers in America when he co-starred in “I Spy,” in the late 1960s, recorded numerous hit comedy albums, created Fat Albert and then became the beloved sweater-wearing Dr. Huxtable. The verdict was a sobering downfall for a man, who, if you believe his accusers — and we do — exploited his fame by drugging women to rape them.

What finally brought him to justice? An off-hand comment four years ago by a stand-up comedian, Hannibal Burress, reminding people Cosby had paid off Constand. “Google ‘Bill Cosby rape,’ ” he told incredulous audience members.

Of course, the victim was portrayed as a “con artist” by Cosby’s lawyers. After all, she had been given $3.4 million in hush money, and Cosby had insisted the sexual contact had been consensual.

During jury selection, the judge asked hundreds of potential jurors whether their feelings about #MeToo would get in the way of being fair. Most said they were well aware of cultural movement. But prosecutors never mentioned #MeToo to jurors during trial.

They didn’t have too.

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