September 28, 2018
Bill Cosby was convicted in April of aggravated indecent assault in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His day of reckoning has come. He was sentenced to three to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state correctional facility.
“This was a serious crime,” Judge Steven O’Neill said while sentencing Cosby. “Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The day has come, the time has come.”
The circle began in 2004 when Cosby gave Andrea Constand pills to incapacitate her and then sexually assaulted her. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Cosby to five to 10 years in prison, saying he had shown “no remorse” for his crime.
His attorneys said they intend to file an appeal.
Cosby’s fate is now in the hands of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. The board will decide if and when Cosby is released from prison.
Pennsylvania has an indeterminate sentencing scheme. Every sentence over two years is considered a state sentence and all sentences have a maximum and a minimum.
The maximum must be at least twice the minimum. In Pennsylvania you can have a two- to four-year sentence but not a two- to three-year sentence or as with Cosby a maximum that is more than two times the minimum.
Once a state sentence is imposed (greater than two year maximum) the local court relinquishes jurisdiction over the case to the parole board.
Every inmate in a state correctional facility will be eligible for parole at some point, except those convicted of first and second degree murder and certain sex offenders who refuse treatment.
Those eligible for parole will be interviewed by a panel of two parole board members and a decision to parole in serious cases will be made by a majority of the full board.
Not everyone eligible for parole gets paroled, as they like to say in Pennsylvania “Parole is a privilege not a right.” I know, because in 2006 the Governor of Pennsylvania appointed me to a six-year term on the Board of Probation and Parole.
Pennsylvania uses a sophisticated assessment tool, as compared to a number of other state paroling authorities, for determining whether an inmate is a good candidate for parole.
The parole guidelines consider the seriousness of the offense, successful completion of rehabilitative programming, the behavior of the inmate while incarcerated, and the level of risk to the public.
There three things that came up during and after the sentencing that people advising Cosby should be concerned about. First, the need to participate in sex offender treatment, second his lack of remorse and finally his attorneys’ statement regarding appeal.
Let’s take the last issue first. Cosby has an automatic right to appeal. He will presumably seek a new trail. Anything he says in treatment or to the parole board can be used against him at a second trial.
As a result, many inmates in Cosby’s position refuse treatment and refrain from making any admissions about the crime in the presence of the board. His chances of parole are about zero. In fact, an inmate in Pennsylvania who refuses to participate in sex offender programming is, by law, not entitled to a parole interview — essentially ineligible for parole.
The issue of remorse is also an extremely important issue when it comes to parole. The board expects that those convicted of crime will take responsibility for their conduct and be able to articulate sincere remorse.
This isn’t just an exercise by the board to flex its muscles. An inmate who shuns responsibility and shows no empathy for those he or she has harmed is doomed to repeat the conduct.
Cosby is considered a geriatric inmate — he is 81-years-old. The cost of housing a geriatric inmate is significantly higher than younger inmates — although age alone is not a mitigating factor for parole. The Pennsylvania Department of Correction, like most states, is prepared for aging inmates. The state has correctional facilities that cater to older, infirm and unfortunately dying inmates.
— Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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