Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill, who is presiding over the Bill Cosby sexual assault case, has told prosecutors they need to limit the number of accusers who will be speaking at the former comedian's sentencing hearing, which starts on Monday, September 24.
As reported by USA Today, prosecutors had wanted more of Cosby's 60 other accusers to speak during the sentencing in order to show that the "pattern of sexual misconduct makes him a predator and a danger." Only five of his accusers spoke up at his retrial, which took place in April this year. He was ultimately found guilty on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault.
By the end of the retrial, the jury convicted Cosby of drugging and molesting a woman in 2004.
O'Neill asked prosecutors on Wednesday if they planned to recall those five women during sentencing, and added that he would not allow any new testimony to take place on Monday. Legal counsel on Cosby's side have opposed the testimonies.
Cosby, 81, will face a two-day sentencing hearing, and Judge O'Neill has a number of options to consider. Legally, the potential sentence can range anywhere from probation to a a 30-year jail sentence. According to state guidelines, the suggested sentence for Cosby would be between a one- to four-year sentence.Cosby's retrial was the first celebrity trial in the "MeToo" era, and centered around his assault of Andrea Constand, who he had drugged inside his Philadelphia home in 2004 before molesting. After other accusers came forward as well, the charges expanded to three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
While the sentencing options are quite vast for O'Neill to consider, NBC Philadelphia reports that the maximum sentence for each count of aggravated indecent assault is a 10-year prison sentence.
The defense counsel will likely cite Cosby's age, his ailing health (he is legally blind), his legacy in Hollywood, and his philanthropy throughout his lifetime at his sentencing in a bid to fight for leniency. His lawyers will argue that he should be put on probation in his own home, while the prosecutors will want to hammer home the danger he poses to society by recalling his victims to testify again.
Legal experts have predicted O'Neill will likely look for a sentence in the middle-ground, to stay the public anger on both sides and "avoid being overturned on appeal."
"If you give a sentence in the middle, almost no one can complain," said Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University's Kline School of Law, who studies sex assault issues. "And because the case has mitigating factors and aggravating factors, that's the most likely outcome."
The final sentencing should be completed by Tuesday.