So the charade has begun. Bill Cosby showed up to court to answer his charges in his trademark jumper. For added effect, he brought a cane with him and he had his attorney help him get in and out of the courtroom. His message is simple: “you are picking on a frail old man who has done nothing but good for the black community and you are out to ruin my reputation and character in the twilight of my life. Shame on you.” He was released on $1 million bail and he had to surrender his passport. And of course he was defiant, his attorney released this statement:
“Make no mistake, we intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law.”
Bill Cosby’s attorney also alleges political motivation for bringing these charges. The current DA is seeking reelection and he needs a big win or a high profile case. The statute of limitations on this allegation is about to run out so it’s the last chance at holding Bill Cosby accountable for his actions. Regardless if this is the case, if it is politically motivated or not, or if there’s really not enough evidence or not, Bill Cosby’s worst nightmare has come true.
Bill Cosby was finally charged with sexual assault by a Pennsylvania DA twelve years after the alleged event took place. For most of his accusers, the statute of limitations have run out for them to bring charges against Cosby. The victim in this case is a former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. Ms. Constand alleges that Cosby tried to incapacitate her in his Pennsylvania home with pills and alcohol and subsequently sexually assaulted her in her altered state. It may serve as little comfort to the other victims but at least, for this victim, the DA found sufficient evidence to bring charges. Whether it will result in a conviction or not, it is still too early to tell.
Bill Cosby was a well respected veteran of television, a pioneer, he broke racial barriers. He was an educator and specifically for the black community, he was their role model, a guiding light, an inspiration. He offered support to black children when needed and he also scolded them in his unique patrician tone when he felt they needed a scolding. Nobody wanted to see this man go down in flames like this in the fourth quarter of his life. No one. Regardless if one was a fan or not, no one wanted to see him go out like this. I was a fan of ‘The Cosby Show’ and while it’s too much on the vanilla side for me, I enjoyed some of Bill Cosby’s stand up comedy as well. And I respected him and what he stood for. Had these rape allegations not come to light and if the opportunity arose, I would have no problem letting my children meet him, in public or in private.
If I am to be honest, when the first allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby first came out, I had my reservations. Not because of his stature in the black community, not because he was a well liked, much admired television producer and pioneer. Not because he was a powerful man and therefore impenetrable. Not because his image as a squeaky clean family man. I am not so naive to think with all of his fame and wealth he wouldn’t step out on his wife here and there, but that’s between the Cosbys and not the public. He wasn’t perfect, but there’s a very firm line in the sand between having consensual extramarital affairs and drugging and raping unsuspecting women. It is very serious to accuse a man of rape or committing acts of sexual assault. It has the potential to destroy a man’s reputation and ruin his career for the rest of his life if he is innocent. And unless there is incontrovertible proof to the contrary, I will withhold my judgement. This does not mean the accusers’ claims are to be dismissed or minimized, far from it. If any woman feels she’s been drugged and raped, she needs to get law enforcement involved and start an investigation and get justice. But as an informed member of the public, until he is proven or until he admits he is guilty, he should be given the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to clear his name in the court of law or even in the court of public opinion.
However, when almost everyone of his accusers start describing the same type of scenario of how they were assaulted, which was they were plied with pills and alcohol to render them semi-conscious and unable to give or deny consent, alarm bells were raised for me. Most of these accusers did not know each other, they were not of the same social circles and the assaults spanned decades, but their stories are eerily similar, it must be true, Bill Cosby is a serial rapist and predator. There are also famous women like former models Angie Dickinson and Beverly Johnson who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault.
Then news began to slowly filter out of how much hush money he has paid over the years to women who accused him of sexual assault. In fact, he even had a separate bank account which his wife Camille didn’t know about, for the sole purpose of paying off women he’s assaulted. Many details of the depositions he gave shed light into his real character, and it’s not the strict but lovable father everyone knows him to be on television and in his personal life. Bill Cosby was and is a sick, twisted, demented rapist who preyed on vulnerable women. He used his position and took advantage of vulnerable women who looked to him for guidance but instead he drugged and raped them. Some of his choice responses in his deposition regarding Andrea Constand can be seen here.
In his depositions he admitted to having Quaaludes handy and he did hand out Quaaludes to women but he maintains it’s for partying as it was the party drug of choice and not with the intent of incapacitating them. He also considers himself a “decent reader” of women and their sexual desires (yuck). He maintains that all of these incidents are just extramarital dalliances and when he was done with one woman he’d move on to the next. They are not calculated sexual assaults.
The black community initially came out in full force in support of Cosby, some to their own detriment. It was viewed as an attempt by the media to bring down a powerful and well respected black man. And since most of his accusers are white, it was seen as suspect from the history of the old Jim Crow days where white women routinely falsely accused black men of rape. Whoopi Goldberg defended Bill Cosby until she couldn’t, tarnishing her reputation in the process. Raven-Symone was given her first job by Bill Cosby at three years old, she wasn’t as vociferous in her defense but she found it hard to criticize Cosby without knowing all the facts, which in Raven-Symone’s case is understandable. Damon Wayans, in a crude, foul-mouthed rant on a morning radio interview defended Bill Cosby from these allegations and called some of the women “un-rapeable”. Wayans says it was the 80s, everyone did Quaaludes and had permissive sex regardless of marital status. The singer Jill Scott also defended Cosby via Twitter until the transcripts of his deposition was made public.
I can understand the support he received from the black community. I would do the same. Bill Cosby was larger than life to a lot of people. He broke open barriers for them and his was a message of positivity, achieving greatness and attaining success through education. Cosby used his platform to help his community and he did it with humor. But none of it matters if he is a rapist. All of the celebrities who openly defended Cosby except for Damon Wayans have all withdrawn their support.
Damon Wayan’s “un-rapeable” comment is very central to the current rape culture. There is this belief amongst some rapists, especially among famous and influential men, and that is, they do not need to go rape women, women throw themselves at them. To accuse the likes of Bill Cosby of rape is ridiculous. Bill Cosby doesn’t need to rape women, women get in line to go to bed with him. This has been the narrative every time a famous or influential man is accused of rape.
One of the most famous rape cases of the 1990s is the Dr. William Kennedy Smith rape trial. His attorney, Roy Black, successfully put the victim on trial instead. The sexual peccadilloes of the victim Patricia Bowman was on trial instead of his client – the good respected doctor from one of America’s most famous families. The fact that three other women made similar accusations against Dr. William Kennedy Smith, their testimony was successfully kept out of court by Roy Black. Like Bill Cosby, Dr. William Kennedy Smith put on a show for the media and the jurors. He was referred to as “Will Smith”, the famous middle name ‘Kennedy’, the maiden name of his mother Jean, was deliberately left out. Though flushed with wealth, they arrived in court everyday in a beat up 1989 Mercury and the defendant dressed very modestly. He was made to look like a choir boy. The parade of other Kennedy relatives who showed up to show solidarity and support all came in nondescript rental cars, they left their fancy cars in the driveway of their Palm Beach mansion. Prior to and for the duration of the trial, none of the Kennedys was seen out and about at Palm Beach parties or fancy eateries. They presented themselves as low-key, family oriented people who wouldn’t get caught up with something so lurid as rape allegations. This finely choreographed charade of piety and family devotion became the blueprint for all high profile rape cases.
Our justice system puts the burden of proof on the prosecution. All defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Should I ever be accused of a crime, I would fully expect my accuser to prove it and I wouldn’t do anything to help him. I would hire the best attorney I can find to fight the charges. Everyone is entitled to this right. Every defendant has the right to face their accuser in open court. Even in rape cases, if a woman (or man) is accusing someone of rape and she has chosen to come forward and allow the DA to bring charges, let her face and name be known to the public (unless she is a minor) in order to seek justice for herself, she has to be prepared to face her perpetrator in court. After all, whether he gets convicted or not will depend on her testimony. The defense attorney also has a right to question her version of events. The defense attorney’s job is to be an advocate for the defendant, he has an obligation to defend his client to the best of his ability and he will do what he needs to do to fulfill that obligation. However, it is the job of the prosecutor to protect the dignity of the victim. He cannot let the defense attorney steamroll the victim. The prosecutor is charged with representing “the people”. When a rape victim’s personal life and sex life is put on trial instead of the accused, the prosecutor needs to step in and protect the victim. To allow rape victims to be slut shamed on the stand in the name of justice is the same as raping her all over again. And this is what has been happening in rape trials. The victim is on trial. The victim has to prove she didn’t cause herself to be raped. The burden of proof fell to the victim to prove that she was raped. The scope of questioning about the victim and her personal life needs to be restricted. What she did with her boyfriend when she was 18 years old has no bearing on the current rape allegation.
It is unclear if Bill Cosby’s charges will result in a conviction. The one thing working against his victim is she accepted a confidential settlement from Bill Cosby. This usually means money was exchanged for her silence and Cosby admits no wrongdoing. Any half decent defense attorney will rip her to shreds on that point alone, her motives and credibility will be called into question. Andrea Constands tried to bring charges against Cosby in 2005 but the DA then deemed there wasn’t enough evidence. However, this current DA is confident in bringing charges because new evidence came to light and he’s confident about this case.
Rape cases are notoriously difficult to prove, especially when the parties involved knew each other previously. It’s far easier to charge and convict someone of a rape if he raped a stranger (i.e. jumping out of the bushes or breaking into her home). It would just be a question of matching the DNA to crime scene and assessing the victim’s injuries. But if the parties knew each other and was at one time friendly with one another, trying to prove rape can be a very difficult task. Also, it boils down to ‘he said she said’ where the credibility of the victim will be under the microscope. If they don’t attempt to slut shame her then they will find instances where she was less than honest. Also, because Ms. Constand was drugged, her recollection of exactly what happened may be hazy.
There’s a reason why rape and sexual assault is one of the least prosecuted crimes. It’s a crime where forensic evidence is scant. It’s a crime which relies on the credibility and recollection of the victim and during trauma and distress, it’s very easy to confuse the sequence of events. Most rape victims speak about intentionally blacking out when the rape is occurring, she would imagine herself somewhere else, anywhere but here because it’s too traumatic, so to expect rape victims to remember the sequence of events prior to and after she was raped is not realistic. Any discrepancies will be pounced on by defense attorneys, that’s their ‘reasonable doubt’. Lastly, there’s the shame of being a rape victim. If there is anything worse than being raped is everyone knowing you got raped. When a woman is raped, she is no longer just Ms. or Mrs. so-and-so, she is Ms. or Mrs. ______ and a victim of rape.
Bill Cosby is finished. His legacy is forever tarnished. All of his career and artistic achievements will forever be shadowed by the rape allegations regardless if it ends in a conviction or not. He is Bill Cosby the rapist. Not Bill Cosby the television pioneer, the stand up comedian and educator.