(AP) -- His Hollywood career and good-guy image in ruins, Bill Cosby was led away to prison in handcuffs Tuesday at age 81, sentenced to three to 10 years behind bars for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his gated estate.
The punishment made him the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be sent to prison and all but completed the dizzying, late-in-life fall from grace for the comedian, TV star and breaker of racial barriers.
“It is time for justice. Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come,” Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said. He quoted from victim Andrea Constand’s statement to the court, in which she said Cosby took her “beautiful, young spirit and crushed it.”
Cosby declined the opportunity to speak before the sentence came down, and afterward sat smiling, laughing and chatting with his defense team. His wife of 54 years, Camille, was not in court. Constand smiled broadly upon hearing the punishment and was hugged by others in the courtroom.
Cosby’s lawyers asked that he be allowed to remain free on bail while he appeals his conviction, but the judge appeared incredulous over the request and ordered him locked up immediately, saying that “he could quite possibly be a danger to the community.”
The comedian removed his watch, tie and jacket and walked out in a white dress shirt and red suspenders, his hands cuffed in front of him. He must serve the minimum of three years before becoming eligible for parole.
“For decades, the defendant has been able to hide his true self and hide his crimes using his fame and fortune. He’s hidden behind a character created, Dr. Cliff Huxtable,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said at a news conference, referring to Cosby’s best-known role. But “now, finally, Bill Cosby has been unmasked, and we have seen the real man as he is headed off to prison.”
Constand stood at Steele’s side but shook her head to say she had no comment.
Former model Janice Dickinson, who was among the 60 or so women who have come forward to accuse Cosby of drugging and violating them over the past five decades, looked at him in the courtroom and said: “Here’s the last laugh, pal.”
Another accuser in the courtroom, Lili Bernard, said: “There is solace, absolutely. It is his fame and his fortune and his phony philanthropy that has allowed him to get away with impunity. Maybe this will send a message to other powerful perpetrators that they will be caught and punished.”
The punishment, which also included a $25,000 fine, came at the end of a two-day hearing at which the judge declared Cosby a “sexually violent predator” — a modern-day scarlet letter that subjects him to monthly counseling for the rest of his life and requires that neighbors and schools be notified of his whereabouts.
The comic once known as America’s Dad for his role on the top-rated “Cosby Show” in the 1980s was convicted in April of violating Constand, Temple University women’s basketball administrator, at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004. It was the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.