Social media was a key factor in the prosecution of actor and comedian Bill Cosby, who was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, formerly of Temple University, experts told The Crime Report.
Victims can now come forward with “the push of a button,” said Jeff Herman, a lawyer in Boca Raton, Fl., who handles sexual abuse cases. “We saw a flood of victims coming forward on social media, which created a platform for women to join together and support each other.”
Herman noted that in the days before the internet, powerful men like Bill Cosby engaged in “bad behavior” and could use their power to protect themselves. Consequently, victims felt they had no voice.
Cosby’s case was the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, completing the spectacular late-in-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America’s Dad, the Associated Press reports.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004.
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors had more courtroom weapons at their disposal than they did the first time: They put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, who has been married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too. Cosby is expected to argue in an appeal that the other women should not have been allowed to take the stand.
By the time the verdict was read on Thursday, the public view of Cosby had fully shifted, but it took more than a decade, and a previously hung jury, to get to this point, noted Columbia Journalism Review.
It was nearly 12 years ago that Philadelphia magazine pub
On Thursday, Cosby lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele after the prosecutor demanded Cosby be sent immediately to jail. Steele told the judge Cosby has an airplane and might flee. Cosby angrily denied he has a plane and called Steele an “a–hole,” shouting, “I’m sick of him!”
In 2015, Steele made good on his promise to prosecute Cosby, a move that Wendy Murphy, a lawyer in Boston who specializes in crimes against women and children, said was “worthy of a prosecutor” in an interview with The Crime Report.
Murphy emphasized the importance of Steele’s decision to prosecute Cosby.
“We need to take page from the playbook of Kevin Steele and use it in counties across the country” she said. “He should be the standard bearer on what a worthy prosecutor looks like. What a worthy prosecutor does. If we don’t do that, this case will not have turned a chapter.”
For Murphy, Cosby’s case has three important messages for society:
- To men like Cosby … beware. You may have thought you could get away with this, but that has obviously changed and you cannot expect to get away with it. You may end up behind bars.
- To women and victims, no matter who you are in society or how long ago your case happened, you should report it and speak up because it is never too late for justice. In whatever form it happens.
- Every prosecutor who doesn’t file rape charges on the grounds that it doesn’t matter because women’s lives aren’t that important may find himself out of a job.
The system is moving in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether prosecutors will fall in line, she concluded.
Megan Hadley is a reporter for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.