Bill Cosby has been found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault by a Pennsylvania jury. His conviction is cheered by many as a victory for victims of sexual assault across the country. Many attribute Cosby’s downfall to the increased willingness of victims to come forward in the midst of the #MeToo movement.
What exactly was Cosby accused of doing? What is the crime of aggravated indecent assault? What kind of criminal charges would Cosby be facing if he had committed this same crime in Los Angeles? Attorney Ambrosio E. Rodriguez has some answers to help break down the situation.
The Case Against Bill Cosby
The charges against Bill Cosby were based on the allegations of a Temple University employee who said that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by the star. According to reports, Cosby allegedly gave the woman pills that “made her paralyzed and unable to fight him off” as he groped her private areas. Specifically, Cosby was charged with three distinct counts of felony aggravated indecent assault:
- Cosby penetrated the victim’s genitals with his fingers without her consent.
- The victim was unconscious at the time of the sexual act and therefore unable to give required consent.
- Cosby gave the victim an intoxicating substance that prevented her from resisting his advances.
Cosby vehemently denied all of these allegations and claimed that the victim had fully consented to all sexual behavior. In Pennsylvania, Cosby could only be found guilty if a jury believed beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted without the victim’s consent.
What If Cosby Had Been in Los Angeles?
In Pennsylvania, Cosby’s behavior was charged under the state’s aggravated indecent behavior law. What kind of criminal charges could he have faced if the crime had been committed in Los Angeles? Answering this question requires determining exactly what Cosby was accused of doing. Accusations against Cosby included:
- Sexually penetrating another person without consent
- Engaging in sexual activity with a person unable to give consent because they were unconscious, and
- Administering an intoxicating substance in order to prevent a person from resisting sexual advances.
If this had happened in Los Angeles, Cosby may have been charged with forcible sexual penetration. In California, forcible sexual penetration occurs when:
- There is an act of sexual penetration with another person
- Accomplished without consent and by using a foreign object
- By using force, violence, fear, or threats of retaliation.
Under California law, consent cannot exist when a victim is unconscious or has been administered a drug that prevents them from resisting sexual advances. Cosby would likely face charges under Penal Code 289(d) PC.
Consent in Sexual Misconduct Cases
Allegations of sexual misconduct are not always truthful. One of the most popular arguments defendants use to fight charges of sexual misconduct involves consent. Sexual assault crimes can only exist if the victim did not consent to the sexual act. In criminal matters, the state has the burden of proving that the defendant acted without the victim’s consent. How is this generally done?
Prosecutors can present evidence – whether direct or circumstantial – to establish that consent did not exist. This may include:
- Indications of a struggle
- Test results indicating the presence of intoxicating substances in the victim’s system
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Character testimony, and/or
- Reports made to police after the incident.
In the Bill Cosby case, the state also presented the testimony of other women who alleged to have also been Cosby’s victims. In Pennsylvania, their testimony could be used to establish a pattern of misconduct.
Consequences of Sexual Assault
Bill Cosby may well spend the rest of his days behind bars. Each of the individual counts of aggravated indecent assault carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. At 80 years old, it is unlikely that Cosby would survive the extent of his criminal sentence.
What would he have faced if the crime had been committed in California? Forcible sexual penetration carries a penalty on par with that for rape: a maximum of 8 years behind bars. While the total sentence may have been a few years shorter, it would still have been unlikely for him to serve the entirety of his sentence before death.
In addition to imprisonment, Cosby will likely have to register with the state of Pennsylvania as a sex offender. Upon registration, he would face an assessment to determine if he was a “sexually violent predator.” Since he will likely spend the rest of his days behind bars, this label will likely only have an effect on his legacy and reputation.
Fight Criminal Charges in Los Angeles
Have you been arrested for a sex crime in Los Angeles? Contact the Rodriguez Law Group for help with your legal defense. Our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can help you fight to protect your future and avoid devastating criminal penalties. Call us today to request a free consultation and learn more.