(AFP) – A Pennsylvania jury was deliberating a third day Wednesday whether to convict disgraced comedy legend Bill Cosby of sexual assault in one of America’s biggest celebrity trials in years.
The 79-year-old pioneering black actor could face the rest of his life in prison if convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and molesting a woman at his home in 2004.
The maximum penalty for each charge is 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. But there is no mandatory minimum, meaning that the judge overseeing the case could also allow him to walk free.
The 12-member jury, which already deliberated more than 15 hours on Monday and Tuesday, working late into the evening on both nights, has been sequestered for the duration of the trial.
Cosby, once a towering figure in 20th century popular culture, returned to the court in Norristown, just outside Philadelphia, in a dark suit, white shirt and striped tie to await the verdict.
The trial marks a steep fall from grace for an entertainer for decades loved by millions as “America’s Dad” for his seminal role as a lovable father and obstetrician on hit TV series “The Cosby Show.”
In closing statements, the prosecution portrayed the actor as a sexual predator who deliberately drugged 44-year-old Canadian Andrea Constand so she would be unable to resist his advances at his Philadelphia home.
Cosby refused to testify and his lawyers called just one witness, a police detective, before resting their case minutes later on Monday.
Around 60 women have publicly accused the Emmy-winning comedian of being a serial sexual predator in remarkably similar accusations that span four decades, ending his career and pulverizing his reputation.
Constand’s is the only criminal case against him as under US law, most of the alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute.
The seven-man, five-woman panel must reach a unanimous decision. If they tell the judge they cannot, Judge Steven O’Neill is likely to ask them to try harder.
If the jury still fails to reach a decision, the district attorney will be given the option to request a re-trial.
But if Cosby is convicted, even on one count, Montgomery County prosecutors will probably petition for his $1 million bail to be overturned and that he be detained into custody immediately.