Prosecutions are like snowflakes, no two the same. Sometimes, you have a low-profile drunken-driving case where the defendant is a first-time offender, the district attorney is willing to offer a plea deal, and no one except the parties involved will ever know about it.
And then there are those cases that catapult a prosecutor into the cable-news firmament, cementing his or her status as a legal and political superstar for years to come (assuming, that is, the prosecutor ends up winning).
The newest ticket to stardom has been cashed by Montgomery County’s new D.A., Kevin Steele, who is going after comedian Bill Cosby. We have come to think of the Cos through his alter ego, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, so the sight of his mug shot is as bizarre as it is tragic.
Of course, we’re not allowed to say things that in any way, shape, or form exhibit sympathy for Cosby. We’re supposed to pretend that due process doesn’t apply to a man already convicted in the court of public opinion.
It is unlikely that Cosby will ever spend a day in prison. He has already posted bond, and the likelihood that the district attorney will have the ability to prove the charges of aggravated indecent assault beyond a reasonable doubt is questionable.
The alleged crime occurred 12 years ago, which also raises questions about the soundness of the prosecution and a strong suspicion that it is political. After all, prosecutors in Pennsylvania are elected, and they listen very closely to the loudest voices in their constituencies.
Kevin Steele used the case of Bill Cosby to buy himself favor in the eyes of Montgomery County voters who believed the previous D.A., Bruce Castor, dropped the ball in 2005. And you have to hand it to him: It worked.
So it’s not far-fetched to believe this prosecution is the fulfillment of an IOU to the people who pulled the lever for “The Guy Who Would Put Cosby in Jail.”
None of this is to suggest that Cosby is innocent. He is, of course, until proven otherwise under this flawed yet precious system of justice we’ve been honing for the last two and a quarter centuries. But there is a troubling amount of evidence to at least support a finding that the man was an immoral serial adulterer.
And yet, one does not generally go to jail for adultery. And Steele is going to have to show that the woman who claimed to have been abused by Cosby didn’t consent to sex. He also has to come up with more than just her word to substantiate the claim.
Perhaps he’ll be successful, perhaps not. Until he is, though, let’s remember the words that are printed beneath Cosby’s mug shot on the Montgomery County district attorney’s website:
“Criminal charges, and any discussion thereof, are merely allegations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.”
Even when someone is proven guilty, there is the possibility that an injustice has occurred. Cosby might never be convicted, but even if he’s not his reputation is destroyed, by his own hand and mostly to the detriment of those who believed in him.
There’s also the fact that nothing that will happen in Cosby’s case that can ever make the true victims whole again.
But who cares about them, when Nancy Grace is waiting?
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org