Apr 26, 2018, 5:47 PM ET

Bill Cosby conviction: How prosecutors scored a victory against 'America's Dad'

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After years of innuendo, allegations and ultimately two criminal trials -- the second of which ended with a guilty verdict Thursday -- Bill Cosby has been convicted on felony sexual assault charges.

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The actor and entertainer -- known as "America's Dad" during the 1980s and beyond -- will be sentenced to go to prison later this year.

Here’s how prosecutors from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, finally did it:

The prosecution team of District Attorney Kevin Steele and assistant district attorneys Kristen Feden and Stewart Ryan appear to have benefited from at least three key factors in which the first trial differed from the retrial.

PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives with his spokesman Andrew Wyatt for deliberations at his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., April 26, 2018.Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives with his spokesman Andrew Wyatt for deliberations at his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., April 26, 2018.

Five additional accusers were allowed to testify in the retrial, versus one additional accuser in the first –- allowing the Commonwealth to demonstrate far more clearly what it has described as a decades-long pattern of alleged abuse by the defendant.

Prosecutors’ savvy use of an effective sexual assault expert as its first witness set the stage for the succession of claims that six women gave on the witness stand about being drugged and molested by Cosby.

PHOTO: Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele walks to a courtroom for the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, April 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa.Corey Perrine /AP
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele walks to a courtroom for the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, April 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa.

The testimony of Dr. Barbara Ziv also seems to have helped inoculate those accounts from relentless attempts by the defense to discredit the women –- for coming forward years after the alleged incidents, for having sometimes hazy memories of the alleged attacks themselves, and for minor and major inconsistencies in their stories.

The retrial unfolded in the looming shadow of the #MeToo movement, a powerful and ubiquitous phrase that was virtually unknown during Cosby’s first trial.

Between the first hung jury and the start of the retrial, some of the biggest and most respected male stars in Hollywood, media and the arts were felled when multiple accusations of sexual harassment and assault drove them from their lofty perches into a new and devastating kind of public disgrace.

Finally, the prosecution appears to have benefitted from a gross miscalculation by the defense, which took a ferocious approach to impeaching both the women who testified and the #MeToo movement as a whole.

“The Most Important Ruling”

Prosecutors won a major pre-trial victory in March when Judge Steven T. O’Neill, who also oversaw the first case, ruled that five additional women with similar accounts to Andrea Constand -- that they were drugged and molested by Cosby -- could testify. In the first trial, he only allowed one additional accuser to testify.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand, center, and supporters embrace after Cosby was found guilty in his sexual assault retrial, April, 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.Mark Makela/Pool Photo via AP
Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand, center, and supporters embrace after Cosby was found guilty in his sexual assault retrial, April, 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.

Normally, prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of prior bad conduct from other cases because it could be prejudicial in the eyes of the jury. But Pennsylvania law allows for exceptions if such evidence establishes a modus operandi or common scheme to each alleged assault.

Prosecutors argued the need to demonstrate to the jury a specific pattern of behavior they believe underscores the similarities between nearly all of the dozens of accusers they interviewed and the account of Constand.

O’Neill had to weigh the value to the jury of hearing additional evidence from other accusers with similar stories against the prejudicial effect the new witnesses could have on the defendant.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby accusers Lili Bernard and Caroline Heldman pose for a selfie while waiting in line before the courtroom opens at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., April 26, 2018.Mark Makela/Pool via Getty Images
Bill Cosby accusers Lili Bernard and Caroline Heldman pose for a selfie while waiting in line before the courtroom opens at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., April 26, 2018.

Legal experts described O’Neill’s decision as a game-changer.

“It was the most important ruling in the first trial, and ... the most important ruling in the second trial,” Steve Fairlie, a former Montgomery County prosecutor, told ABC News.

In another new strategy employed in the retrial, prosecutors called as their first witness Dr. Barbara Ziv, an expert in sexual assault who outlined for jurors how the majority of sexual assault victims in the U.S. tend to display counter-intuitive behavior to other types of crime victims. It can be confused by observers and prompt them to doubt the victims’ stories, she said.

Ziv testified that the majority of victims in the U.S. fail to make timely reports, are often fuzzy on details and facts, often do not fight back, and are known to maintain contact with their attackers after the assault.

“Most of what people believe, the most common knowledge, about sexual assault is wrong,” she testified earlier this month.

Women don’t tend to report such attacks, she said, because “there’s shame involved, there’s a sense of culpability,” Ziv said from the stand. “It’s talking about the most private areas of their life. Women do not talk about sex, consensual sex, very often to very many people.”

That testimony appears to have inoculated jurors against defense attacks on the credibility of the additional five accusers.

PHOTO: Tom Mesereau, lawyer for actor and comedian Bill Cosby, arrives for the start of jury deliberations in the retrial of Cosbys sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., April 25, 2018.Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images
Tom Mesereau, lawyer for actor and comedian Bill Cosby, arrives for the start of jury deliberations in the retrial of Cosby's sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., April 25, 2018.

Recognizing this, defense attorneys in closing arguments took #MeToo head-on in a blistering attack on both the movement, the additional accusers and Dr. Ziv. They banked on a backlash to the #MeToo movement against the abuse and sexual harassment of women, describing it as a mob mentality “based primarily on emotion and anger.”

“When you join a movement based primarily on emotion and anger, you don’t change a damn thing,” defense attorney Kathleen Bliss told jurors.

PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby exits Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pa, April 26, 2018.Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby exits Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pa, April 26, 2018.

And one by one they took aim at the five additional accusers, especially former model Janice Dickinson, whom Bliss described as a “failed starlet” and an “aged-out model” and mused that it sounded “like she slept with every man on the planet.”

The Night Of...

One of the most striking and overlooked aspects of both trials is not what divided the prosecution's and defense attorneys' arguments, but rather the facts upon which they agreed.

Both sides stipulated that on a night sometime in or around early 2004, Constand visited Cosby at his suburban Philadelphia estate, that Cosby handed her three pills he referred to as “friends,” and that Constand ingested them.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial, Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.Matt Slocum/AP
Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial, Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.

Both sides agreed that Constand grew dizzy, uncomfortable and sleepy, and that Cosby led her to a couch and laid her down.

They also agreed that Cosby penetrated her with his fingers and used her hand to masturbate himself, and that afterward he left her on the couch and went upstairs to bed.

From there, the two sides diverge sharply.

Cosby’s attorneys described the incident as part of a consensual, if unorthodox, romantic relationship.

Prosecutors said the entertainer viciously drugged and incapacitated Constand before raping her and leaving her passed out on the couch with her bra around her neck and her clothes disheveled before heading upstairs to bed.

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  • Educated

    ....Good, hopefully Trump is next!

  • Put It On Green !!!

    I wonder what would happen if he is only scentenced to probation?

  • Sally Wright McLinn

    I'm sorry but for a man with lots of money he chose bad attorneys. First when he was sued civil by Constand, he gave a deposition. Notice that Ryan Seacrest has been chased by one woman who filed criminal charges and tried to get $5 Million from him; Seacrest stayed the course and didn't give in.
    Cos must had bad attorneys or a bad conscious about what he did. He also chose Messereau as his attorney, a Hollywood attorney. Bad choice.
    I hope he chooses better attorney when he appeals.

  • Disqus 30

    He is/was an entertainer. Personal choice dictates if his work entertains us. For example, The Cosby show was unique and was a result of hard work of dozens of individuals. The actions Bill Cosby took on personal life, good or bad, do not take take away from his or others' work on the show.

    However, it's understandable that people would like to avoid taking entertainment that Mr Cosby took part of.

    Tragic all the way around.

  • george

    He should have been sentence and went straight to jail. Chances are he will not get there.

  • Brandelyn Bostic

    OK.. First I need to say how peculiar it was that I couldn't post on Weinstein but can access all other articles.. I don't care HOW they got Cosby, that's a non issue. I want to see HOW they'll get Weinstein or ANY of the #metoo "alleged" outted perpetrators!! ...or is "justice served" because cosby is finished?? I would ask that all guilty are brought to justice

  • Borderlord

    A victory over an 80 year old blind man. Hooray! Vengeance is served!

  • James Cameron

    1. Knock knock
    2. Who's there?
    1. Bill Cosby Pudding
    2. Bill Cosby Pudding who?
    1. Bill Cosby Pudding his thing where it doesn't belong

  • pbinCA

    Cosby will have some soul searching to do. If he can find it in his heart that he might have been wrong to drug women, and begin to admit his guilt, it could result in a shorter sentence, or being sent to a nicer prison. If he is defiant (like today), unrepentant, and self-righteous (like Dr. Larry Nassar at his sentencing), the judge will give him the max - 30 years. So, Cos has a lot of self-reflection to do, and choices he could still make.

  • snake

    Bill O'Reilly,Matt Laur,Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein and now Bill Cosby. One by one these lecherous geezers are falling. Donald Trump could be next.

  • running33

    Normally people want to live a long life, but I wonder if Cosby isn't wishing he'd kicked it at around 78 or 79...

  • Jackie

    Is Cosby wearing an ankle bracelet & under home confinement?

  • Karis Bradley

    It saddens me to think that someone I always admired and laughed at with my family as a child is capable of actions such as these. It certainly reveals his view on women as his playthings rather than fellow human beings. He used his good standing to take advantage of these women. It is truly disappointing and appalling to know that this once beloved man is capable of such heinous actions. Though I am saddened to see his downfall in this way, I am so much more proud of the women who stood up against him in the face of fear and shame and did not let his despicable actions fall by the wayside. It is because of them and their bravery that one more sexual predator has been convicted. Most victims are fearful of the repercussions of coming forward and having to relive their experiences even with everyday men who have done such things to them. Cosby's conviction is proof that, when it comes to wrongdoing, no one, celebrity or otherwise, is beyond consequences. I hope that seeing these women come up against someone with such prominence in the entertainment industry will help past and future victims overcome their fear of speaking out, knowing now that winning is possible.

  • RRbane

    Glad this rapist pig will be locked behind bars for the rest his miserable life.

  • YouMayBanMeButYouCan'tBanIdeas

    Why is Steven Tyler in the courthouse, and why is he celebrating?

  • My Name Is Nobody

    Serious question: If Bill Cosby was white, would he have been convicted? The article breaks down the jury by gender, but not race. I'd be interested in knowing the jurors races.

  • katerant

    Camille might want to get in touch with Dottie for guidance on how to proceed as a wife who pretended not to know.

  • Fermer Votre Bouche

    The burning question is why he was allowed to walk out of court a free man. He should be in jail now.

  • fifolo

    Good riddance

  • Lee Thompson

    Prisons accommodate elderly convicts every day. Cosby will be just another elderly convict.