Update: Bill Cosby has arrived at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown for the start of his sentencing hearing for his conviction of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his Cheltenham Township home.

Two of the women who testified at the trial — Lise Lotte Lublin and Janice Dickinson — were escorted into the courtroom by detectives. At least two jurors also showed up. Constand is expected to attend but has not yet appeared.

Earlier Story

Bill Cosby has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 women. He's endured two criminal trials in the nearly three years since he was charged with drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand. And he's been found guilty by a jury from Montgomery County.

Now, his fate lies in the hands of one man.

In days, Judge Steven T. O'Neill could order the 81-year-old entertainer once known as "America's Dad" to be led away in handcuffs to a prison cell — possibly for the rest of his life.

O'Neill's decision, expected to unfold before a crowd of observers and media in a Norristown courtroom Monday or Tuesday, represents the first time in the #MeToo era that a celebrity faces prison in a sex-assault case.

The hearing is scheduled to begin Monday and last two days. Neither prosecutors nor defense lawyers have publicly filed their sentencing recommendations.

But if the proceeding follows routine, it will include arguments from the lawyers, a victim impact statement from Constand, and statements of support from Cosby's family members or friends if they choose to attend. And perhaps remarks from the entertainer himself — if he exercises his right to address the judge.

O'Neill may also hold a separate hearing to determine whether Cosby should register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and undergo treatment.

Cosby's lawyers are almost certain to raise issues his defense has brought up repeatedly since his 2015 arrest and believe should shape how he is punished: his compliance with bail conditions, his age, and failing health. They say he is legally blind.

Swaying O'Neill may be a tall order. Data suggest that nearly 80 percent of defendants convicted of the same crime — aggravated indecent assault — who like Cosby had no prior record were sent to prison. There are also dozens of older inmates in Pennsylvania prisons, some with similar health problems.

Given the international spotlight on sexual assault, O'Neill may also feel pressure.

"Most judges in an individual case will be eager to assert that they want to treat every defendant equally and that a defendant's notoriety neither affects nor influences what they do at sentencing," said Douglas A. Berman, a professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law who studies sentencing issues. "But I think practically speaking, we see in a lot of high-profile cases judges acting differently."

A prison term for Cosby would be the final, devastating blow in a slow but dramatic and perhaps unmatched downfall. Once among the nation's most beloved celebrities, his career at its end became mired in dozens of accusations of past sexual misconduct — even as he eluded prosecution in all but one case, drew a hung jury in his first trial, and continued to maintain his innocence.

The judge’s decision

Pennsylvania law gives judges loose guidelines and the latitude to impose a sentence of their choice.

Although Cosby faces a maximum of 10 years in state prison for each of the three counts against him, Pennsylvania's sentencing guidelines call for from 22 months to three years for aggravated indecent assault. But O'Neill has discretion; he could impose a much longer or shorter prison term than the guideline recommendation. Each count represents a different crime — penetrating Constand without her consent, drugging her, and assaulting her while she was drugged — but the judge could roll the sentences into one.

Judge Steven T. O’Neill will sentence Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
MARK MAKELA / AP
Judge Steven T. O’Neill will sentence Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

Berman noted a case with as much publicity and as many variables as Cosby's makes a decision difficult. "My sympathies to the sentencing judge," he said.

Of the nearly 120 defendants sentenced in 2016 for aggravated indecent assault in Pennsylvania in which the defendant had no prior record, 79 percent went to state prison, according to data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.

In those cases, the average minimum sentence was 2½ years and the average maximum more than six years. About 10 percent of defendants received a term short enough to serve in county jails — under two years — while 5 percent received probation.

Six percent of defendants got a non-confinement sentence, meaning they may have paid fines or restitution but were spared from a cell or house arrest.

Besides seeking a lengthy state prison sentence, prosecutors are expected to argue Cosby should be ordered to cover the cost of his trials. His lawyers are likely to contend that he should remain free on bail while he appeals the conviction, or that he should serve his sentence under house arrest because of his age and failing health.

David Heckler, a former Bucks County judge and district attorney, said seeing the international celebrity marched out of court in handcuffs could send an important message.

"There comes a judgment day,"  Heckler said. "And it comes for all of us — rich, poor, famous or not famous — if we betray a trust we have."

What would a prison term mean for Cosby?

Steven L. Chanenson, a professor of law at Villanova University and a former chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, said it is unlikely O'Neill would approve probation for Cosby, or even let him be released on bail while he appeals.

"When it comes to sentencing, judges are engaged in both an art and a science," Chanenson said. "They have to look at the law, they have to look at the facts, and they truly are engaged in a form of judgment."

If Cosby is sentenced to state prison, he would be transported to the Montgomery County jail in Lower Providence Township to await transport to the State Correctional Institution Phoenix, the new prison on the SCI Graterford campus.

A cell at SCI Phoenix, Pennsylvania’s largest, newest prison. Cosby would go there to be assessed for placement within the state prison system if he receives a prison sentence.
SAMANTHA MELAMED / Staff
A cell at SCI Phoenix, Pennsylvania’s largest, newest prison. Cosby would go there to be assessed for placement within the state prison system if he receives a prison sentence.

At SCI Phoenix, Cosby would be evaluated for placement within the state prison system. There are about a dozen state prison inmates with visual impairments, said Sue McNaughton, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, and they live in the general prison population. Some have "inmate guides," fellow inmates who can lead them around, she said.

His age also shouldn't be an issue. McNaughton said there are 86 inmates who are 80 or older — the oldest is 91 — and facilities with infirmaries for inmates of any age.

The unknowns

Cosby, on house arrest at his home in Cheltenham since he was convicted in April, has said through his lawyers that he will appeal his conviction.

His wife and publicists have compared him to civil rights icons Nelson Mandela and Emmett Till, insisting that he, too, is the victim of a corrupt and racist justice system. Appeals can take years to work their way through the court system.

Cosby and his lawyers have also questioned the judge's fairness.

On Monday, Camille Cosby submitted a complaint to the state judicial conduct board, claiming O'Neill had a personal grudge against former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor — who testified at a pretrial hearing that Cosby should not have been prosecuted — that should have prevented O'Neill from taking the case. On Friday, Cosby's wife announced that she had hired a Harrisburg-based lawyer to investigate the judge.

Cosby's latest lawyers — Joseph Green Jr. and Peter Goldberger, who joined the case after Cosby parted ways with his trial attorneys — can present evidence and witnesses to demonstrate Cosby's character and good works throughout his life. And, if he agrees, let their client speak.

Andrea Constand, left, leans into her attorney Delores Troiani, right, during Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele’s press conference after the guilty verdict against Bill Cosby on Thursday April 26, 2018.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Andrea Constand, left, leans into her attorney Delores Troiani, right, during Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele’s press conference after the guilty verdict against Bill Cosby on Thursday April 26, 2018.

Constand, who first accused Cosby in 2005 of assaulting her while she worked for Temple University in 2004, will attend the sentencing hearing and testify about the impact of the crime.

"She is confident that there will be justice performed," said her lawyer, Dolores Troiani.

District Attorney Kevin Steele, who called five other Cosby accusers to testify at the trial, had sought to have even more accusers speak at the sentencing hearing. O'Neill denied that motion, but prosecutors can still ask him to consider the accounts of the women who told jurors that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them.

In the end, it will all fall to O'Neill.

"It's really difficult to understand and appreciate the complexity of that sentencing decision and unless you're there and unless you have access to all of the information that he will have access to," said Lawrence F. Stengel, who recently retired from his role as chief U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. "Sentencing is the hardest thing a judge does."