Constand, now 45, was drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby, now 81, in 2004 in his Elkins Park mansion. But prosecutors long declined to prosecute the case, even after Cosby settled a civil suit with Constand in 2006.
But in 2015, a deposition from that suit surfaced in which Cosby admitted to giving Quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex, and authorities subsequently considered reopening the case. Prosecutor Kristen Gibbons Feden tells PEOPLE she visited with Constand in Toronto — who told her that despite all she’d endured, she wanted to cooperate with the case.
Feden recounts: “I asked her why, and she said, ‘You know, it’s my civic duty.’ It was a humanity thing. It was admirable. It was emotional.”
“Her heart was so pure and so strong, and her bravery and courage so amazing,” says Feden, adding that Constand likened pursuing the charges again to being like “opening a wound.”
Cosby was convicted in April on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Constand, a former Temple University employee who at the time considered Cosby, a Temple alum, a mentor. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.
The verdict against Cosby came after a jury in his first trial on the charges failed to reach a verdict in 2017.
Cosby’s conviction and sentence vindicated Constand, and many of the more than 60 women who have accused Cosby of similar abuse celebrated the long-delayed justice.
Cosby has denied all allegations against him, including those from Constand, and has vowed to appeal his conviction. He did not testify in his own defense at trial and he declined to speak during his sentencing.
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In comments after the hearing, Cosby’s publicist, Andrew Wyatt, spoke out in provocative terms about the sentence, which he claimed followed “the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States.”
Constand ‘Very Pleased’ with Sentence: Prosecutor
Feden spoke with PEOPLE Thursday before she received an award from the Victim Rights Law Center, a non-profit that provides legal services to sex assault survivors. She describes Cosby as a classic type of predator who used his wholesome persona to ingratiate himself to people and get away with his behavior.
“He utilized … all of his accolades, accomplishments, philanthropic characteristics and personality to gain people’s trust. You’re not going to second guess your dad or your mom. And he created that second image of himself so he wouldn’t be second-guessed either,” says Feden. “Because this is Bill Cosby,” she adds. “This is Dr. Huxtable. This is Ghost Dad.”
Feden also praises the #MeToo movement, saying, “It’s such a dynamic and powerful movement,” and says, “This conviction, this sentence, raises awareness and gives victims and survivors hope.”
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of five to 10 years, but Feden says Constand and her parents were “very pleased” with the sentence.
“The judge acknowledged her survivorship, her pain, her cooperation,” Feden says, adding that the judge quoted from the victim impact statement Constand submitted.
In her statement, Constand wrote, “When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities. Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward.”
“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others,” Constand wrote.