NORRISTOWN, PA (RNN/AP) - Steven O’Neill, the judge in the Bill Cosby sentencing, ruled Tuesday that the former comedian is a “sexually violent predator" and ordered him to three to 10 years in state prison.
Cosby had been convicted of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University basketball employee who accused him of luring her to his home under the guise of mentorship and drugging and violating her in 2004.
In addition to imprisonment, Cosby must have lifelong counseling, report to authorities quarterly and will appear on a registry of sexual offenders. He also was fined $25,000, and denied bail.
Cosby left the court in handcuffs, a surreal image capturing the fall from grace for someone who had been one of America’s most beloved entertainers, a comedian and TV personality whose family image permeated everything he did.
He will go immediately to prison.
In a victim impact statement, Constand spoke of how she felt "powerless to protect myself" during the assault and the pain and shame it inflicted on her, and how it upended her bright career.
"Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others," she wrote. "We may never know the full extent of his double life as a sexual predator but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over."
Lili Bernard, an actress and artist who has accused Cosby of assault, called Constand “the Joan of Arc in the war on rape.”
“She’s doing great, I hugged her,” Bernard told CNN. “That family is an amazing, outstanding role model of courage and unity.”
A small group of women who also accused Cosby of sexual violence huddled under umbrellas outside the court as it rained, in an emotional scene as they laughed and cried and said justice had been served.
“I’m very happy to know that Mr. Cosby will do time in prison. That he is touchable like he touched us,” one accuser, Chelan Lasha, said.
“No one is above the law and no one should be treated different or disproportionately,” O’Neill said during sentencing, according to CNN.
Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s publicist, spoke outside court as well, and denounced the process as “racist and sexist” and claimed the district attorney, Kevin Steele, used falsified evidence in his prosecution.
Cosby had arrived at court earlier Tuesday for his sentencing of the assault more than 14 years ago.
Cosby, 81, and Constand attended both days of the sentencing hearing in the suburban Philadelphia courthouse. The comedian was the first celebrity to go to trial in the #MeToo era, convicted of violating Constand, a Temple University employee, at his home in 2004.
Cosby was smiling and joking with his spokesman and sheriff’s deputies as he settled into the courtroom. On Monday, the comic laughed at times as a psychologist on the witness stand for the state portrayed him as a sexual predator.
Cosby is legally blind and uses a cane, something his lawyers tried to use to get leniency, along with his achievements and philanthropy.
In the years since Constand first went to the police in 2005, more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, though none of those claims have led to criminal charges.
Constand tweeted Ephesians 4:26, a Bible verse about letting go of anger, hours before the hearing began Monday: "Be wrathful, but do not sin; do not let the sun set while you are still angry; do not give the Devil an opportunity."
Belying Cosby’s wholesome image, according to testimony, the married star sought out sexual encounters with young women, including actresses he offered to mentor, models seeking a part on his shows, and flight attendants he met.
Cosby vehemently denied the claims of sexual crimes, despite admitting in a 2005 deposition he acquired Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women before sex. He said he never used them.
Statutes of limitations prevented criminal charges for most of the alleged crimes, which dated back as far as the 1970s, but in many ways the damage was already done.
The comedian was planning a TV comeback and had several projects in the works, which were scrapped because of the scandal. TV Land stopped showing reruns of his landmark series from the '80s, "The Cosby Show."
Organizations cut ties with Cosby, including his beloved Temple, where his career started. The U.S. Navy, in which Cosby served four years, stripped him of his title of honorary chief petty officer.
Cosby was born July 12, 1937, and grew up in a struggling family in Philadelphia. Part of the family’s problems were a result of drunkenness by his father, a steel worker. His mother, Anna, cleaned houses to help the family survive.
Cosby began taking odd jobs as a youngster to help out financially, eventually dropping out of high school to join the Navy in 1956. However, he earned a G.E.D. and later attended Temple on a track scholarship.
It was there Cosby realized the power he possessed to make people laugh, and he began telling jokes at a bar in 1961 to pick up quick money. He left school again, this time to take a job as a regular comedian at the Gaslight Cafe in New York City.
Cosby's first comedy album, titled "Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow… Right!," was released in 1963. It began a quick rise to prominence that had gone on virtually uninterrupted for the next six decades. His first Grammy Award came for the 1964 comedy recording "I Started Out As a Child."
He became known for clean comedy, refusing to use profane language and focusing heavily on his family life. His exaggerated speaking style became one of his most recognizable performance traits.
Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. The Associated Press contributed to the report. All rights reserved.