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‘Truth prevails’: Bill Cosby victim hails guilty verdict

Cosby was found guilty of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.

The woman Bill Cosby was convicted of sexually assaulting tweeted “Truth prevails” the morning after a jury came back with a verdict that could send the 80-year-old comedian to prison for the rest of his life.

After decades of whispers, lawsuits, investigations and close calls, Cosby was found guilty of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.

The verdict also led Temple University on Friday to revoke Cosby’s honorary degree from the school.

Cosby long served as a leading public face and a key fundraiser for the school, which was among few that waited to pull honours from Cosby until after the verdict.

He frequently turned out to support the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, an interest that connected him with Ms Constand, who managed the women’s team.

Thursday’s ruling was hailed by women’s advocates as a turning point in the #MeToo movement and was seen as vindication by a multitude of women who doubted anyone would ever believe their word against that of America’s Dad.

Lili Bernard, who claimed Cosby sexually assaulted her before giving her a one-time role on The Cosby Show in 1992, became so emotional in the courtroom gallery that she accidentally banged her forehead on the bench in front of her.

“I’m overcome with gratitude,” Ms Bernard, sobbing, said outside the courthouse.

“I feel like I have to pinch myself. Am I awake? It’s a miracle.”

The verdict in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era sealed the spectacular late-in-life downfall of an entertainer who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing Dr Cliff Huxtable.

“A very profound and heartfelt thank you to the Commonwealth of PA, Montgomery County, for their service and sacrifices. Congratulations,” Ms Constand said on Twitter. “Truth prevails.”

It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said Cosby drugged and molested them over five decades but whose stories were often disbelieved or ignored years before #MeToo put a spotlight on sexual misconduct by powerful men.

Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele after the prosecutor demanded Cosby be sent immediately to jail.

Bill Cosby victim Andrea Constand, left, embraces prosecutor Kristen Feden during a news conference (Matt Slocum/AP)

Mr Steele told the judge they had learned through the trial that Cosby has an airplane, and feared he could flee.

Cosby angrily denied he has a plane and called Steele an “asshole”, shouting: “I’m sick of him!”

Judge Steven O’Neill decided Cosby can remain free on one million dollar (£730,000) bail while he awaits sentencing but restricted him to Montgomery County and the mansion where the encounter with Constand occurred.

Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying a standard sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

The counts are likely to be merged for sentencing purposes, but given Cosby’s age even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.

Bill Cosby accusers, from left, Caroline Heldman, Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino, right, react outside the courtroom (Mark Makela/Pool Photo via AP)

Cosby accuser Janice Baker-Kinney, who alleges he drugged and raped her in 1982, told ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday that it is essential Cosby spend time in jail.

She said she would not be heartbroken if he spent the rest of his life in jail and even died in prison.

Sentencing will likely be held within three months. Before that, Cosby must face assessment to determine if he is a sexually violent predator. He will also be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law.

Ms Bernard told NBC’s Today show on Friday that her hope is Cosby’s sentence matches the severity of his crimes.

“Hopefully his sentencing will reflect the magnitude of the damage and havoc he has wreaked,” she said.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated 14 hours over two days before convicting Cosby.

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt told GMA on Friday that Cosby is feeling great one day after the verdict.

He said Cosby was spending time with his wife, Camille, is confident that he did nothing wrong and maintains his innocence.

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