Bill Cosby was a role model of mine. To be clear, you’ll never hear me excuse or defend his crimes. However, I must admit I’m heartbroken and torn over his conviction last week. No doubt, his victims deserve justice. Yet, when considering the bigger picture, I question the manner in which the charges against him were brought and how that will impact our criminal justice system going forward.
Before you decide to hate me or call me a spawn of Satan, I hope you’ll hear me out first. I’ve dated women in the past that have shared their stories of sexual abuse with me, and sadly, sexual abuse has reared its ugly head within my own family. In general, my thoughts toward convicted sexual abusers, particularly child molesters and rapists, are that they should stand before a firing squad. So, it’s not easy to take the stand I’m taking with Mr. Cosby, but I feel it’s necessary in a #MeToo climate.
In my opinion, this case should have never made its way back into a courtroom.
Allow me to travel back in time for a moment. As a young black boy growing up in Los Angeles, there weren’t a lot of things I saw that gave me hope of a better life. However, one of the things that did was “The Cosby Show” and a spinoff show of Bill Cosby’s called “A Different World” starring Lisa Bonet, Kadeem Hardison and Academy Award winning actress Marisa Tomei.
Every Thursday night, my family and I gathered around the television to watch these shows religiously. I can recall standing in front of the TV with my dad one particular evening, and there was a scene between Bill Cosby and his co-star Phylicia Rashad that caused my father to burst out into laughter. It must’ve been a scene where they debated who had the hardest job. You may recall, in the show Bill Cosby played an OB/GYN and Phylicia Rashad played a lawyer. After the scene, I distinctly remember my dad turning to me. He was still laughing at the time when he said, “Please! No married black couple can be a doctor and a lawyer.” I remember thinking to myself, why not?
My dad grew up during the civil rights era where he experienced bigotry and racism at a scale I never had to. Thank God! Therefore, I don’t fault him for saying what he did; it’s what he knew. What Bill Cosby helped me to believe with his shows was that despite my skin color, there was still an American dream out there for people that looked like me. “The Cosby Show” was more than an “act” for many black families in America; it was a declaration of what we could achieve if we put our minds to it.
Fast forward nearly a quarter century later when stories of Cosby’s sexual misconduct began to emerge in the media. Initially, they were hard to believe, hard to fathom, but as witnesses came forward in larger numbers, the accusations became impossible to dismiss. Having said all of that, Bill Cosby’s conviction at his retrial would not have been possible if two things hadn’t occurred:
- If the New York Times had not obtained and released Cosby’s deposition transcript from his 2005 testimony regarding Andrea Constand’s civil suit against him. Ultimately, Constand was rewarded $3.4 million after signing a confidentiality agreement that banned both parties from releasing the documents. Apparently, the transcript itself was never sealed despite the agreement.
- Secondly, Cosby’s conviction in the retrial wouldn’t have been possible if Judge O’Neill, who presided over the first trial that resulted in a hung jury, hadn’t allowed testimony of five accusers with unfounded claims to tip the scale in favor of the prosecution. According to the New York Post, criminal defense attorney Stuart Slotnick, who has followed the trial for two years, believes there are “strong grounds for appeal,” since it was clear the prosecution couldn’t convict Cosby based on Andrea Constand’s testimony alone. In addition to her testimony, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele used testimony from other accusers – who, again, offered no proof or evidence – to establish a pattern of behavior from Cosby. This could be problematic for the prosecution because Bill Cosby was never charged in any case regarding the accusers that testified against him. Judge O’Neill never explained why he allowed their testimony.
In a court of law, it shouldn’t matter what you think about Cosby; what should matter is what you can prove. Like it or not, that’s our system. Furthermore, let’s be honest, had Cosby not began advocating for family values in the black community, none of this would’ve ever been exposed. In the end, it isn’t my goal to defend Cosby’s despicable acts, if his accusers are telling the whole truth. If they are being totally truthful, Cosby has no one to blame but himself for his legal problems. However, it’s clear to me that nondisclosure agreements mean nothing in the era of the #MeToo movement, and unproven testimony from witnesses is enough to put you away for life. The latter especially should disturb us all.