Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison for sexual assault
Bill Cosby, the former beloved TV dad and one of the most recognizable entertainers in America, sentenced to 3-10 years in prison, locked up Wednesday in his new home: an 7-by-13 foot cell with a narrow cot and a metal toilet.
It was his first day of what will be a lengthy stay in a Pennsylvania state prison.
But the 81-year-old’s legal challenges are far from over. How long will he remain behind bars? What will that stay be like? And what about his potential appeals, or the civil defamation lawsuits against him?
Here are six things we know about Cosby’s immediate future — in prison, in the courtroom and in American pop culture.
The prison in Collegeville is about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia and not far from the Montgomery County courthouse where he was convicted.
Cosby got one of the SCI Phoenix facility’s 3,830 beds to start serving his sentence. The Department of Corrections said he was also given a few basics, including a uniform, toiletries, linens, towels and state-issued boots.
He is being housed in a single cell — 7 by 13 feet — in a unit adjacent to the infirmary, the prison said. He will be allowed phone calls and visitation in accordance with policy, as well as the opportunity to exercise as he goes through an evaluation process.
“We are taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure Mr. Cosby’s safety and general welfare in our institution,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “The long-term goal is for him to be placed in the general population to receive the programming required during his incarceration.”
Cosby’s first prison meal at SCI Phoenix was baked meatballs and rice, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, said Lisa Durand, spokeswoman for SCI Phoenix. Lunch on Thursday included a half-cup of gelatin, like the Jell-O dessert Cosby once hawked in TV ads. Saturday’s menu has chocolate pudding.
The prison will accommodate his age and health issues
Cosby’s attorneys had asked the judge to sentence him to house arrest because they said prison would be tough for Cosby, who is elderly, legally blind and famous.
Worden said that new inmates go through an evaluation process to determine which prison in the state system is best suited for them. They evaluate the inmate’s needs, programs and health issues in deciding where to house them, she said.
That could mean Cosby remains at SCI Phoenix or is moved to another of the state’s prisons.
Amy Worden, press secretary for the state Department of Corrections, said the Pennsylvania prison system has geriatric inmates, and most of their prisons, including SCI Phoenix, are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are also varying degrees of medical facilities across the system.
“The Department of Corrections has had high-profile inmates before, and I’m sure we’ll have them again, so it’s not that much out of the ordinary. He’ll be treated like other inmates,” Worden said.
As part of Cosby’s sentence, he was determined to be a “sexually violent predator,” a designation that requires him to take sex offender counseling at least once a month. In SCI Phoenix, he will find programs on that topic.
Cosby spokesperson Andrew Wyatt said Cosby’s family is hoping that SCI Phoenix will be his final prison location, as the facility is new and he can be comfortable there, away from the general population. The prison is also only a 30- to 45-minute drive from Montgomery County, where Cosby has a home.
He could be released in three years
Cosby entered the prison Tuesday to begin a sentence that will last at least three years and no more than 10 years.
He was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each of which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. But Montgomery County court Judge Steven O’Neill announced Monday that the charges had been merged into one because they all stem from the same event.
O’Neill sentenced Cosby to three to 10 years because, he said, “No one is above the law, and no one should be treated differently or disproportionally.”
“This was a serious crime,” O’Neill added. “Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The day has come, the time has come.”
After three years, Cosby will be eligible to appear before a parole board and make his case to be paroled. At that point, he could be released from prison and allowed to serve out the rest of his 10-year sentence under supervision in the community, said the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.
“Parole is a privilege, not a right; it is not automatic or guaranteed. It may be revoked for violations of the conditions of parole or for new criminal convictions,” the board writes.
Cosby was also ordered to pay a fine of $25,000 plus the costs of prosecution — a total of $43,611 — as part of the sentence.