25 Sep 2018

Cosby sentencing hears arguments over predator label

2:10 pm on 25 September 2018

Bill Cosby's lawyers and a state-appointed psychologist argued in court over whether the disgraced comedian should be deemed a "sexually violent predator" under Pennsylvania law as a two-day sentencing hearing began.

Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse, in Pennsylvania, on the first day of sentencing.

US comedian Bill Cosby, 81, arrives at Montgomery County Court at the start of the two-day sentencing hearing. Photo: AFP

Cosby was found guilty in April of sexual assault.

The 81-year-old had built a family-friendly reputation playing the affable Dr Cliff Huxtable in the 1980s television comedy The Cosby Show.

He was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former administrator at his alma mater Temple University, at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004. More than 50 other women also have accused him of sexual abuse going back decades.

If Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O'Neill agrees with prosecutors' recommendation to label him a predator under state law, Cosby would face more onerous reporting requirements, including monthly counseling and registration as a sex offender with police for the rest of his life.

Kristen Dudley, a psychologist with the state sex offender board, told the court that Cosby met the criteria to be labeled a predator.

She said people who commit this sort of aberrant sexual behavior, which she described as a form of paraphilia, were likely to reoffend.

When questioned by lawyers for Cosby, who oppose the designation, she said she had taken his age and blindness into account as well as the fact that there are no allegations more recent than his assault of Constand.

"He is an esteemed member of the community and is able to meet and befriend people," she said, adding that Cosby has been accused of sexually assaulting female acquaintances. "Being blind does not stop him from meeting people."

Prosecutors are expected to seek a lengthy sentence, citing the nature of Cosby's crime as well as his alleged history of misconduct.

Cosby's first trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Soon after that proceeding, a series of women began leveling sexual misconduct allegations against influential men, launching the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have encouraged victims to speak up about their experiences.

The judge allowed prosecutors to call five other accusers as witnesses in Cosby's second trial over the objections of his defence team, bolstering Constand's account. All of the women told stories that were markedly similar to Constand's: Cosby would offer to be their mentor before plying them with alcohol and drugs and sexually assaulting them.

- Reuters

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