BY DIANE DIMOND
It never should have taken this long. It never should have taken more than 50 women alleging sexual assault at the hands of a celebrity before that celebrity was ordered to court to answer the allegations.
But it has finally happened. Comedian Bill Cosby now finds himself in a very un-funny position. He was arraigned this week in a Pennsylvania court on a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault, forced to give up his passport and post a $1 million bond to keep himself out of jail. The charges were filed right before the state’s statute of limitations on such a crime would have run out.
The event that compelled Cosby to appear occurred nearly 12 years earlier.
Andrea Constand says she considered Cosby a “mentor” and “friend” to whom she had long turned for career advice. But in January 2004, after a dinner at his Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, mansion, Constand says, she was drugged, ultimately rendered unconscious and sexually assaulted by Cosby. Constand, who is gay and was in a relationship with a woman at the time, left her job at Temple University, moved to Canada and there, about a year later, reported the attack to law enforcement.
Back in Pennsylvania, the local District Attorney took just a few weeks to declare he would not file charges against Cosby. But Constand would not back down and filed a civil suit against Cosby.
The entertainer gave a deposition admitting, among other things, that he dispensed Quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex. But he underscored his playboy lifestyle and maintained that all the acts were consensual. (That deposition was unsealed last summer by a federal judge who said the public had a right to know the real Bill Cosby.)
Despite the family-values star’s attempt to tamp down media coverage of the Constand case, 13 anonymous women came forward to testify that they were also sexually assaulted by Cosby. In the end, there was no trial. The one-time Jello pitchman bought himself out of trouble with a secret monetary settlement with Constand.
Two dozen women were all claiming the same terrible crime had happened to them, and still no charges materialized. But most had waited past their states’ time limits to file such a complaint — more evidence underscoring why statute of limitation laws for sex crimes should be scrapped.
Please realize that the earliest accusation against Cosby dates back to 1965! That’s 50 years’ worth of allegations that all shockingly describe the same modus operandi, five decades filled with what at least 50 women describe as Cosby’s “past bad acts” of rape and other sexual assaults.
After Andrea Constand settled in November 2006 the bad publicity all but died out.
It wasn’t until October 2014 that another comedian renewed interest in the allegations. Hannibal Buress mocked Cosby and called him smug for lecturing black Americans about how to live better lives.
“Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby,” Buress said on a now iconic internet video, “So turn the crazy down a couple notches.”
A month later, Barbara Bowman, an Arizona mother of two, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post alleging she was raped by Cosby in 1985 when she was 17. The headline: “Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 Years for people to believe my story?” Bowman would have testified years earlier had the Constand case gone forward.
“Only after a man … called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest,” Bowman wrote. And she was right.
Now, dozens of women, many represented by attorney Gloria Allred, have come forward to describe in wrenching detail how after being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby they stayed silent, fearful of the celebrity’s juggernaut of lawyers and private detectives. Allred says there are more women who will soon reveal similar charges. And, she says, some of her clients may testify at Cosby’s upcoming criminal trial if the judge allows in testimony from others.
“If the past bad acts are allowed in, it’s over,” according to CBS legal analyst and attorney Rikki Klieman, and Cosby goes to prison.
But will there actually be a criminal trial? The sickening delay in discovering the truth now finds Cosby, 78, a seemingly frail, doddering old man. At his arraignment he appeared slow, off-balance and, frankly, a bit out of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if his lawyers sought a delay because of his physical or mental health, a plea agreement to keep Cosby in home confinement in exchange for a guilty plea.
Right now they maintain Cosby’s complete innocence and say they plan a “vigorous defense.” Good, because justice delayed is justice denied.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net