Bill Cosby's sentencing hearing Monday is set to begin with a sex offender evaluation and likely determine whether the 81-year-old will be designated a sexually violent predator.
Classifying Cosby as such would be highly impactful, given the lifetime counseling, the community alerts and public shaming that would come as a result. The classification could also affect the defamation lawsuits Cosby faces, as the women who filed them claim that Cosby branded them as liars when he denied the sexual assault accusations. Cosby's lawyers have stated that the sex offender reporting laws remain undetermined, as courts have found them to be unconstitutional.
A state sex offender board has recommended that the trial judge designate Cosby a sexual predator, providing the argument that he has a mental defect or personality disorder that makes him inclined to engage in criminal behavior. Philadelphia Defense lawyer Demetra Mehta stated that the term is, “the modern-day version of a scarlet letter." She also explained the implications the term has within the present day context of #MeToo. "I think is sort of an interesting philosophical issue at this time with the #MeToo movement, but also criminal justice reform.”
Steven T. O’Neill, the judge who will decide Cosby's sexual predator designation Monday, has presided over the case for the past three years. It remains unclear whether or not O'Neill will consider the other women who have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault when he makes his final verdict. He faces anything from probation to 30 years in prison on the three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault.
If Cosby is designated a violent sexual predator, this will likely impact sex-offender laws in the state of Philadelphia. "This is going to probably be a very important case for sex-offender law when it’s up on appeal," Mehta said. "It’s an area of law that is just sort of unsettled right now. There’s a lot up on appeal, but there’s not a lot decided."
The difference between being labeled a "sexual offender" and a "violent sexual predator" is distinct, with those designated as the latter being subject to monthly counseling mandates. The "predator" classification also requires law enforcement to actively warn communities of the assailant's neighboring presence.