Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images(NORRISTOWN, Pa.) — A sentencing hearing for comedian Bill Cosby began Monday as women who say he drugged and physically took advantage of them, including one he was convicted of sexually assaulting, filled a Pennsylvania courtroom to watch the first major celebrity punished in the #MeToo era.
The hearing began with the prosecution calling Dr. Kristen Dudley, a clinical psychiatrist and one of the authors of a report issued last month by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board recommending to the court that Cosby be designated a sexually violent predator.
The question of whether Cosby should receive such a designation was challenged by defense attorneys who argued the state’s designation process is unconstitutional because it's too punitive. That’s an issue pending before the state Supreme Court.
Cosby's lawyers also objected on grounds that the state’s evidence is insufficient to support the designation.
Judge Steven O'Neill rejected the defense team's argument, determining from the bench that "at least until the constitutional issue is resolved by the higher court, this action — as of today — is constitutional."
In her testimony Monday, Dudley described how the state's Sexual Offenders Assessment Board undertakes an extensive review of any case it is asked to assess, including investigatory reports, legal documents, criminal complaints, transcripts from both trials and notes from law enforcement interviews with Cosby and witnesses.
In the Cosby case, she said, "there were boxes of documents to go through."
Dudley said one of the factors the board considered in reaching its conclusion was the fear that Cosby would offend again, which was challenged by defense attorney Joseph P. Green.
Green asked Dudley whether she was aware that Cosby is legally blind. She said she is aware of Cosby's condition, and that it did not change her opinion or recommendation.
Green later argued that "there was no reasonable prospect that an 81-year-old blind man is likely to offend."
Dudley said Cosby declined an invitation to be interviewed by the board.
Cosby does not plan to speak during the sentencing hearing, which could take up to two days, nor is he expected to call witnesses to speak on his behalf, his spokesman Andrew Wyatt said.
"He's said everything he's got to say," Wyatt said.
Cosby was convicted on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault stemming from drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in his suburban Philadelphia home 14 years ago.
The conviction came about 11 months after a mistrial was declared in Cosby's first trial when a jury failed to reach a verdict.
On April 26, the jury of seven men and five women deliberated a little over 12 hours before reaching a unanimous verdict in the case.
It's far from clear what sentence will be handed down to Cosby and the possibilities range from probation or house arrest to years in prison.
When the Montgomery County Court in Norristown opened its doors at 9 a.m. Monday, there was already a line of people outside waiting to get a seat in the courtroom for Cosby's sentencing.
Inside the courthouse, across a marble balcony overlooking an atrium from where news reporters were lined up 30 deep waiting to get the best seats in court, one of the jurors who convicted Cosby this spring was spotted slipping into a court office.
He declined to comment when approached by an ABC News reporter and joined six other jurors who convicted Cosby in April of felony sexual assault in an overflow courtroom to watch a live feed of the proceedings.
Seated in the courtroom where the hearing is occurring were Constand, the primary accuser in both Cosby trials, and former model Janice Dickinson, who testified during the second trial that Cosby drugged and raped her in 1982 in a Lake Tahoe, California, hotel room.
Just before Monday's hearing began, as a phalanx of camera crews lined the path, Cosby walked from his black SUV into the courthouse.
One of the spectators outside the courthouse waiting for Cosby was a frequent protester Bird Milliken, who came with an effigy of Cosby in a shopping cart with a bright pink sign around the neck, reading, "America's First #MeToo Conviction," followed by the words. "Guilty, Guilty, Guilty."
Milliken, also known the "Bubble Lady" for the bubble machine she totes around, is an ardent supporter of Cosby’s accusers. During the second trial, she got Constand to autograph her arm.
Milliken later had the signature tattooed to her arm permanently.
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