Bill Cosby Is Going To Prison

The first major sentence of the #MeToo era is here.

The Bill Cosby legal saga is over: he's going to prison.

Pennsylvania judge Steven O'Neill today sentenced Cosby to serve “no less than three years and no more than 10 years" in a state prison, concluding a years-long court case in which Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. O'Neill also designated Cosby a “violent sexual predator,” forcing him to register as a sex offender and report to police monthly. Defence lawyers argued that Cosby should be kept under house arrest, because at 81, prison time would be unnecessarily harsh on his aging mind and body. Judge O'Neill threw that argument out - Cosby wouldn't be the state's oldest inmate - and noted that he was old even when he committed the crime in question.

"America's Dad" no more.

It's important that Cosby do prison time. Indeed, like many such sentences, three to ten years could be argued to be chump change, given the multiple counts upon which Cosby was convicted. Not only are his crimes repugnant (and this particular case was the only prosecutable allegation of over 60, due to Pennsylvania's uniquely lengthy statute of limitations), but the case is also significant in the broader context of the #MeToo movement. Cosby's sentencing is a bellwether for how we handle public figures found guilty of sexual assault and rape; sending him to prison sets a strong precedent. Indeed, Judge O'Neill rejected the notion that any amount of “wealth, fame, celebrity or even philanthropy” can place someone above the law.

Then again: the President of the United States appeared on television at almost the exact hour of Cosby's sentencing, accusing multiple women of being con artists, with the aim of giving a possible sexual assault perpetrator a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. That President is also an admitted (bragged!) sexual abuser himself. So as a society, America at least is clearly a ways off from actually treating sexual assault like the serious violent crime it is.

God knows what will happen to Cosby in prison. Will he receive an easy solitary assignment, or will some bemused prisoner get the bizarre experience of being his cellmate? Will Bill Cosby die in prison? To anyone older than a certain age, this whole saga has been incredibly surreal. Ultimately, however, it's pretty clear-cut that this is justice. And if we can't have complete justice, surreal justice will have to do.