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“A Tsunami of a Sentence”: Victory for Survivors as Bill Cosby Handed 3-10 Years in Prison for Rape

StorySeptember 26, 2018
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Dozens of women who have been accusing comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault for decades were vindicated Tuesday when the disgraced actor was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison by a Philadelphia judge and sent immediately to jail. In April, a jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, at Cosby’s home in 2004. Constand is one of more than 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assaults dating back decades. Many of these women were in the courtroom when Cosby was sentenced. We are joined by one of them, Lili Bernard, a visual artist and actor who has accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her in the early 1990s when he mentored her in preparation for her guest-starring role on “The Cosby Show.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. This is Democracy Now!

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Comedian Bill Cosby is behind bars after a Pennsylvania judge sentenced him Tuesday to three to 10 years in prison. In April, a jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, at Cosby’s home in 2004. Constand is one of some 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assaults dating back decades.

Cosby had been out on bail since his conviction, and on Tuesday, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill ordered him to be jailed immediately. The judge also upheld a state board’s finding that Cosby is a “sexually violent predator,” meaning Cosby will have to undergo monthly counseling and register as a sex offender with police for the rest of his life, and neighbors and schools will be notified of his address and crimes.

Cosby was first arrested in December 2015 for assaulting Constand. The first trial in 2017 ended with a hung jury. During this trial, the judge allowed five additional Cosby accusers to give statements. This is Chelan Lasha, who testified that Cosby sexually assaulted her in 1986.

CHELAN LASHA: He ruined my life at 17 years old. He took away my future, my financial, everything about me, and lived his life on, over and over and over again, with no regards. And I think he needs to pay for what he’s done to everyone. I have nightmares about it this very day, and I want them to go away, just like him.

AMY GOODMAN: Cosby’s lawyers plan to appeal his conviction, and he’s denied any wrongdoing. This is Bill Cosby’s spokesperson, Andrew Wyatt, speaking Tuesday after the sentencing, in the pouring rain.

ANDREW WYATT: Mr. Cosby is doing great, and Mr. Cosby knows that God is watching over him. He knows that these are lies. They persecuted Jesus, and look what happened. I’m not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries. So Mr. Cosby is doing fine. He’s holding up well. And everybody who wants to say anything negative, you’re a joke, as well. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Cosby is the first celebrity to be convicted of sexual abuse since the start of the #MeToo movement.

For more, we’re joined by visual artist, actor Lili Bernard. She has accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her in the early ’90s when he mentored her in preparation for her guest-starring role on The Cosby Show.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! As I watched TV yesterday, I saw you coming out of the courtroom. The significance of Bill Cosby being sentenced to three to 10 years and being imprisoned right away?

LILI BERNARD: That torrential rain that was pouring down as we were emerging from the courthouse was so serendipitous, because Judge Steven O’Neill, he delivered a tsunami of a sentence. And I view it not only as like something that signaled a shift in rape culture away from misogyny and towards believing and valuing women, but I also see it as an absolute mark in terms of gender equality and the history of women’s rights towards a positive direction. So, it’s momentous.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And given how long this battle has gone on, did you ever expect that it would get to this particular point now?

LILI BERNARD: Oh, absolutely not. I was certain that Bill Cosby would die a free man. And I want to say that I—you know, I’m an Afro-Cuban immigrant, and I love my birth island of Cuba, but I take really seriously my naturalized American citizenship. I don’t take it for granted. But this democracy we call the United States, you know, at the helm of it, we have this white male hetero-patriarchy that has sustained itself for generations, for hundreds of years, by oppressing women, by rape, by dominating people of color and LGBT communities. And so, this is much greater than Bill Cosby. It talks about that. It talks about this festering wound of patriarchy that is now finally being punctured by brave women on the front line, like you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, Andrew Wyatt, the publicist for Bill Cosby, stood in the pouring rain and said this is the most racist and sexist trial in history.

LILI BERNARD: Oh, that’s a joke. This is not about race; it’s about rape. And I also heard him intimate that it’s a war, you know, that he’s suffering a kind of war. And I’m really grateful that he did that.

AMY GOODMAN: A sex war that he included Kavanaugh in.

LILI BERNARD: A sex war, yeah. And I’m glad he said that, because he’s accurate about that. This is a war. And I view Bill Cosby as one of the greatest war criminals in history, because he waged warfare on the landscapes of the bodies of so many women and girls, including me. And the weapons that he used may not have been tear gas, may not have been grenades and guns, but they were drugs that incapacitated me. They were his mouth, his penis, a pillow that he pushed into my face when I was screaming “No!” So, yeah, he’s a war criminal. This is a war.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about your experiences in terms of his trying to present himself as a father figure or as a mentor towards you?

LILI BERNARD: Yes, he’s duplicitous. I mean, this is what patriarchy uses, right? They use duplicity in order to oppress. And he is a great oppressor. I view him as not only a war criminal, but as a slaver, because he incapacitated me. He—

AMY GOODMAN: What happened? What year was it?

LILI BERNARD: This was in the 1990s. And he mentored me. He praised me. He lifted me up. He boasted about my skills as not only an actor, but as a painter, to his friends. And once he gained—

AMY GOODMAN: How old were you when he attacked you?

LILI BERNARD: I was in my mid-twenties. And once he gained my total trust, he drugged me and he raped me.

AMY GOODMAN: You were going to go on The Cosby Show?

LILI BERNARD: Yeah, yeah. This happened before. This happened during the mentoring process in preparation of my guest-starring role on The Cosby Show. I did end up guest-starring on The Cosby Show, and it was the most difficult job I’ve ever done in my life.

AMY GOODMAN: After he raped you?

LILI BERNARD: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: And he did this at his home?

LILI BERNARD: Well, I don’t want to get into the details of it, because it’s too much to talk about. Suffice to say that I have a plethora of evidence that I was not even able to present because of the statute of limitations. The incident was just a few months out of the statute of limitations, and it barred me. And were it not for the statute of limitations, Bill Cosby would be receiving a sentence that actually reflects the magnitude of the havoc that he’s wreaked on the lives of so many women.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Gloria Allred—


AMY GOODMAN: —right after the sentencing, surrounded by so many of the women. This was only a case about one woman, Andrea Constand, but Allred represents a number of Bill Cosby’s accusers.

GLORIA ALLRED: We’re glad that judgment day has finally come for Mr. Cosby. Mr. Cosby has shown no remorse. And there has been no justice for many of the accusers who were barred from a court by the arbitrary time limits imposed by the statute of limitations.

AMY GOODMAN: Raising this issue of the statute of limitations, Gloria Allred was, that also prevented you—but talk about this. The 60 women, of course, many of them African-American women, who—

LILI BERNARD: Yes, over a third. So this is not about race. The United States is comprised of about—5.5 percent of the population is comprised of black women, and yet over a third of us who have publicly accused Bill Cosby, about 27 of us, are black women. That means that Bill Cosby is actually disproportionately targeting black women. So this is not about race. It is not.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about what this means. He gets three to 10 years in prison. He went to jail immediately. The judge stood up when he spoke, didn’t he?

LILI BERNARD: Yes. I consider Judge Steven O’Neill to be a great feminist. I mean, this—I do. It’s phenomenal. I mean, I’m grateful that he delivered the maximum 10-year sentence, and he has to serve at least three years before he can even be considered for parole. And I will be there every step of the way to protest and testify to the parole board for why he should continue to serve the 10-year maximum sentence. But this is—

AMY GOODMAN: And Andrea Constand’s statement in the courtroom? Bill Cosby didn’t speak, so he never apologized.


AMY GOODMAN: But Andrea did speak.

LILI BERNARD: Yes. Bill Cosby has absolutely no remorse. And if he continues to show absolutely no remorse, it’s not likely that he will be paroled in three years. I mean, he’s not a stupid man. He’s a masterful manipulator. He is an extremely intelligent serial rapist. And he’ll probably figure out that in three years, if he wants to get out of those bars, then he’s going to have to pretend to care and confess.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Your reaction to Cosby’s spouse calling for an investigation of the judge?

LILI BERNARD: That’s not the only thing she’s done, right? She’s also paralleled us to lynch mobs.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Camille Cosby?

LILI BERNARD: I’m talking about Camille. She has [paralleled] us, the victims of sexual assault, to lynch mobs. She has been verbally attacking females, and many of whom are black women, and just lumping us up with thugs who murder—you know, racist thugs, white supremacists, who murder innocent people. And then they paralleled Bill Cosby to Emmett Till, and now they’re paralleling Bill Cosby to Jesus Christ. I mean, this is not only blasphemous, it just shows the profundity of their depravity.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 10 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: But what this means for Andrea Constand? You, as women, stood together during this trial.

LILI BERNARD: Yeah, Andrea Constand is the Joan of Arc in the war on rape. She has an outstanding family who has just held her up with tremendous strength and unity. And I just think she’s going to go down in history.

AMY GOODMAN: Judge O’Neill said to Andrea Constand, “You took her beautiful young spirit and crushed it. No one is above the law. No one should be treated differently or disproportionately”—he said that to Bill Cosby. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. That was Lili Bernard.

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