Television actor Bill Cosby was handcuffed and taken into custody Tuesday to begin a minimum three-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting a woman at his Philadelphia mansion 14 years ago.
Found guilty on April 26 of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former university basketball administrator, Cosby expressed no reaction when Judge Steven O'Neill handed down the sentence Tuesday in Norristown, Pennsylvania, after rejecting a defense request to release Cosby on bail pending an appeal.
The 81-year-old is the very first celebrity convicted and sentenced for a sex crime since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein ushered in the #MeToo movement and America's reckoning with sexual harassment.
Prosecutors had demanded five to 10 years, after the three counts of aggravated indecent assault were merged into one, saving him a theoretical maximum sentence of 30 years.
However, his prison sentence means that Cosby can apply for parole after three years. His requests will be reviewed by a special committee and can be rejected up to a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars.
"You were convicted of a very serious crime," O'Neill told Cosby. "No one is above the law."
O'Neill also labeled Cosby a "sexually violent predator," a designation that will force him to register with police for the rest of his life and to submit to mandatory counseling.
"It's been a long time coming, but today, justice has been served," chief prosecutor Kevin Steele told a news conference. "Finally, Bill Cosby has been unmasked and we have seen the real man as he is headed off to prison."
The actor was filmed being put in the back of a vehicle, to be taken first to Montgomery County Correctional Facility, before the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and then onto a state prison.
Around 60 women, many of them one-time aspiring actresses and models, have publicly branded Cosby as a calculating, serial predator who plied victims with sedatives and alcohol to bed them over four decades. The case involving Andrea Constand , a former Temple University employee turned massage therapist, was the only one out of dozens of allegations against him that was recent enough to be prosecuted.
"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 in a five-page impact statement. "When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities. Now, almost 15 years later, I'm a middle-aged woman who's been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward."
"I waited 30 years but I'm very happy to know that Mr. Cosby will do time in prison," said Chelan Lasha, one of his accusers who testified at trial. "That he is touchable, like he touched us."
Cosby declined to testify in court, while his publicist remained defiant, accusing the district attorney of using "falsified evidence" and denying his boss the right to a fair trial.
"These injustices must be corrected immediately," Wyatt told reporters. "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 are a joke," he said. He claimed that both Cosby and Brett Kavanaugh were victims of "a sex war" that is "going on in Washington today."