Bill Cosby still wins

Wednesday's news doesn't change the facts -- we reward men who abuse women

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published December 30, 2015 7:46PM (EST)

  (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

It's been an entire career marked by rumors — rumors he himself has been joking about since the sixties. It's been nearly a decade since he settled a lawsuit filed by Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who said he'd drugged her and then "touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated" her. And it's been over a year since Hannibal Buress lit the fuse by coming out and saying in a Philadelphia comedy set, "You rape women." But on Wednesday, the story of the beloved sitcom dad and accused serial sexual predator finally took a turn some thought it never would. Because on Wednesday, Pennsylvania prosecutors announced that for the first time, Bill Cosby is facing criminal charges. And you know what? He'll probably be just fine anyway.

During a morning press conference, Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele said that the 78 year-old Mr. William Henry Cosby Jr. is being charged with aggravated indecent assault in connection the allegations Constand made regarding the 2004 incident. "At this point, we are not looking at other charges," Steele said. "We examined all the evidence and we made this determination because it was the right thing to do." Constand originally filed a police report against Cosby back in 2005, and pursued the civil suit after Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. declared his office "finds insufficient, credible and admissible evidence exists upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt." Eventually, thirteen women with similar stories came forward as witnesses in the civil suit. In a statement released Wednesday morning, Constand's attorneys said, "We have the utmost confidence in Mr. Steele, Ms. Feden and their team, who have impressed us with their professionalism. In that this matter is now being pursued in the criminal justice system, we will not comment further."

What, after all this time, has set this case in motion now? Despite the deluge of women coming forward over the past year, Cosby has remained relatively untouchable thanks to the statutes of limitations on sexual assault charges. But
as ABC News reports, the statute of limitations on the Constand case has not run out -- it is set to expire next month. HuffPo speculated  just a few weeks ago that new prosecutor Kevin Steele's recent election could spur just such a last minute action. And ever since July, when the New York Times published details from Bill Cosby’s 2005 deposition, the demands for accountability have been growing stronger. Cosby's team has, in return, been going on the offensive.

Earlier this month, for example, in a likely futile attempt at face saving, Cosby accused former model Beverly Johnson of defamation, saying, "False allegations against Mr. Cosby have been the centerpiece of her attempted resurgence and she has played them to the hilt, repeatedly and maliciously publishing the false accusations in articles, interviews, and television appearances." (Last year, in an essay for Vanity Fair, Johnson said that that several years ago, Cosby had drugged her but that she was able to escape assault thanks to her "automatic-survival mode.") Cosby has made similar intimidation attempts towards other accusers.

But while the actions of prosecutors on Wednesday seem to offer the satisfying prospect of some closure for the dozens of women who say they were Cosby's victims — and other sexual assault survivors who hold out the hopes of justice someday — it's hard not to look at how these stories tend to go and believe that will really happen. Famous man does bad things to females, you say? Look at the awards and accolades and standing ovations that child rapist Roman Polanski has managed to accrue since he raped a child. Convicted rapist Mike Tyson gets to be in movies and ham it up on "Lip Sync Battle." Charlie Sheen settled his assault cases and became for a time the most highly paid man on television. Chris Brown has a 2009 assault conviction and currently rests at the top of the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts. And even as the tide of popular opinion has turned against him over only the past year or so, Bill Cosby has still been able to keep performing to enthusiastic crowds. He still has his defenders. So yes, Wednesday represents a move forward, a possible gesture that when over forty women say the same thing, maybe a man will be expected at some point to answer for his actions. But if you think we live in a world that doesn't reward men who are offenders, just listen to all the applause they can still command.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Andrea Constand Bill Cosby Charlie Sheen Chris Brown Roman Polanski