It’s a popular line of thinking that the #MeToo movement began in 2014, when stand-up comedian Hannibal Burress made a joke about the open secret of Bill Cosby’s long rumored sexual misconduct, effectively bringing the disgraced 82-year-old entertainer’s sordid past into full view.
It’s probably more accurate to say, however that the scandal has been roiling since at least in 2004, when Andrea Constand dared to accuse the world famous actor and comedian of a sexual assault she said took place one evening at his home.
In 2005, the parties settled out of court, closing the case perhaps for good being the hopes of Cosby’s defense team. The re-emergence of the case 10 years later brought renewed interest in his misconduct, the stories of at least 50 more accusers, and, last year, when a court found Cosby guilty and sentenced him to three to 10 years in prison, the first major victory of the #MeToo movement for accusers.
On Monday, Cosby’s defense team reminded the world just how fleeting those victories can be, as his attorneys officially began their appeal process. A three-judge Superior Court panel hears arguments in the case on Monday, and it is not expected that they will rule for at least a few months.
Cosby is serving a three- to 10-year prison term in Pennsylvania, after a jury found him guilty of having drugged and molested Constand in 2004.
His defense team contends that at the time of the trial last year, the judge erred in allowing five other accusers to testify, which prejudiced jurors against him.
This case was a touchstone for the #MeToo movement. An overturned conviction after such a major victory wouldn’t just be complicated for his accusers but it could potentially open the floodgates for the whole movement.
Right now, the courts — both the judicial one and the court of public opinion — are litigating the case of Hollywood mogul and accused serial sex abuser Harvey Weinstein.
Other notable men who have been accused of sexual misconduct have landed somewhere on the spectrum between being accused and convicted like Cosby, and full scale redemption when they return more or less unscathed to careers in the limelight. Others, like director Woody Allen, seem to elude the process altogether.
This attempt at an appeal by the actor’s legal team, after the battle of David (Cosby’s accusers) versus Goliath (the actor and his intimidating clout and money) could give false hope to the accused or further discourage victims from seeking justice.
If the decision affirms Cosby’s guilt, then he will remain in his prison cell and his lawyers can try to persuade the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear his appeal. But the high court does not have to take the case, and there is no guarantee it will.