Bill Cosby: From global icon to criminal

On Tuesday 25, September, 2018 in a small court room in Norristown in Pennsylvania State of USA, a glittering reputation built for over 60 years came crashing down into shame. Bill Cosby, the renowned American comedian and actor who is ‘technically blind’ was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for sexual mugging which he committed in 2004. He was also fined $25,000+ the cost of the prosecution. Judge Steven O’Neil pronounced the sentence, the 81-year old actor was handcuffed and led to prison Immediately. A heart-breaking to see such a global icon descending into a felon.

Born on July 12, 1937 and named William Henry Cosby in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA, this fallen hero, could not be regarded as somebody born with proverbial silver spoon. His mother was a maid while his father was a steward in US Navy. In spite of this seemingly initial drawback, he pulled himself up the ladder of life to become a talented sportsman, a renowned global actor, wealthy-educated man, a broad role model and a noble supporter of education for young adult. Bill Cosby joined the navy in 1956, after obtaining high school diploma which he got through correspondence courses. After leaving the navy, Bill Cosby was awarded a track and field scholarship in 1961 to attend Temple University where he proved himself as a talented sportsman. At Temple University, he studied Physical Education and got a bachelor’s degree in 1971. In 1973, he got a master’s degree from University of Massachusetts and he capped his academic endeavor with a doctoral degree in Education from the same University in 1976.

Bill Cosby started his career in show business as soon as he left Temple University, he developed his talents for showmanship and for making people laugh. His global celebrity was through his various comedy albums, comedy shows, film appearances and television comedy series. He collaborated with leading African-American actors and actress like Lillian Randolph, Moms Mabley and Sammy Davis who was his best friend and the legendary Sidney Poitier. Bill Cosby was no doubt a very accomplished actor. He was awarded star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 1977 and got three successive Emmy awards for outstanding lead actor in drama series.

However, his films and comedy series on the television, the one that established his global reputation was ‘the Cosby Show’ which found in 1984 and ran till 1992. The show was on the spot success. The show which was shown all over the world, Bill Cosby played the role of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, an obstetrician. Together with his screen wife Clair Huxtable.

Andrea Constand, the first woman to pursue sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby.

(Phylicia Rashad) and their screen children, the show portrayed a stable comfortable African-American family life in USA which was a far cry from the usual chaotic African-American family life in USA. The show gave Bill Cosby the well-deserved nickname of ‘American dad’ respected throughout the length and breadth of America. In fact, many political commentators felt that the show went a long way to pave the way for Barack Obama to win the election to become the first African-American President of USA in 2008.

Before his present travail, Bill Cosby was regarded to be an impeccable family man. He married his wife Camille Hank in 1964 and they had five children; the family lived an ideal life which what was replicated in Huxtable family in Bill Cosby show. Bill Cosby’s only son Ennis was murdered in 1977 while changing his car tyre on a Los Angeles road. The death was painful to Bill Cosby and many people in America and the rest of the world shared the pain with him because of the patient way he reacted to the loss of his only son.

Despite Bill Cosby’s prodigious fame and seemingly docile family life, his world started crashing down at the beginning of this decade as many women came forward to accuse the American icon of sexual assaults dating back to the sixties. Several women accused him of rape, drug facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child abuse and sexual misconduct. Many of the women who accused Bill Cosby regarded him as their mentor and role model. Bill Cosby however, denied all the accusations. Some cases of sexual misconduct against Bill Cosby had passed the statute of limitation and the one that nailed him was the case brought by Ms. Andrea Constrand who was an administrator in Temple University which is the Alma mater of Bill Cosby. The incident between Bill Cosby and the lady who took him as a role model occurred in 2004. The lady alleged that Bill Cosby gave her pills which left her frozen in readiness for sexual assault by Bill Cosby. His first trial of the case in 2017 ended in mistrial but in a retrial by a jury, Bill Cosby was found guilty on April 26 on three count charge of aggravated sexual assault and on Tuesday, September 25, Bill Cosby at 81 years was sentenced to prison for 3-10 years. He will spend his jail term at state prison in Skippack Township in Pennsylvania, a state where he was regarded with extreme adoration before his travail. In sentencing him the judge described him as ‘sexual violent predator’, a description he would take to his grave.

It was sad to watch on the television, Bill Cosby stripped of his jacket and being led to prison in a handcuff. Although his publicist described the trial as the ‘most racist and sexist’, not many people bought that sentiment even among African-Americans many of whom Bill Cosby at the height of his fame had offended by his caustic denunciation of their ways of life. Many people also in USA could not sympathize with Bill Cosby in this his hour of travail, because of his refusal to show any iota of remorse for all his sexual predations of people who took him as a mentor and role model.

Bill Cosby is the first famous person to be disgraced and sentenced to prison after the fall and disgrace of the former legendary film producer, Harvey Weinstein. Like Bill Cosby, Weinstein was accused of serial sexual assaults. He specialized in sexually predating high profile actresses who he promised good roles in films. He was arrested in October 2017 and when the story of his sordid predations came out, he was dismissed from his film company that had produced many epic films and expelled from the prestigious Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Science. Since the fall of this powerful man, many women who had hitherto kept quiet about their trauma under this sexual predator and others are now speaking out through the #Me Too movement. The movement is against sexual harassment and sexual assault. About 75 women had accused Weinstein of sexual assault, soon he too, like Bill Cosby, would meet his nemesis in the court of law. So many big men in film, electronic and print media and those in corporate entities who have been accused of sexual assault on women have quietly resigned their posts in recent times. At present in the same spirit of #Me Too movement, three women have come out to accuse Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee of President Donald Trump of gross sexual assaults some dating back to the time the judge was in the high school about 30 years ago. The three women, Professor Christine Blassey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Ms Swetnick through their actions have put the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh as a US Supreme court Judge in doubt.

It is no doubt baffling to many people in Africa and elsewhere, to see that this situation of ‘kiss and tell’ in which sexual indiscretions committed decades ago can be highlighted to stain the career of high profile people. My take on this, is predicated on what is written in the Holy Writ which says in Exodus 32:34 that a sinner will not go unpunished no matter how long it takes. The wind of #Me Too movement is yet to blow across other countries where many women young and old are unfortunately daily being subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuses in our educational institutions, offices, churches, Nollywood and even at homes without any hope of redress.

 

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