Bill Cosby laughs before going into custody

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Bill Cosby, the comic once regarded as "America's dad" before allegations of sexual assault derailed his once legendary career, has been sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.

The disgraced comedian's two-day hearing at Montgomery County Courthouse in Pennsylvania began on Monday with legal debate over the violent predator label.

Cosby, who was found guilty in April, is the first celebrity to be convicted since the start of the #MeToo movement, the national reckoning with sexual misconduct that has brought down dozens of powerful men in entertainment, politics and other fields.

The punishment all but completed the dizzying, late-in-life fall from grace for the comedian, former TV star and breaker of racial barriers.

Cosby, 81, was sentenced to three to 10 years by Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O'Neill. "I am glad that Bill Cosby was convicted".

"This judge. has actually given a rather lenient sentence", Napolitano said. His name will appear on a sex-offender registry sent to neighbors, schools and victims.

Cosby hasn't been accused of committing a sexual assault in the 14 years since he violated former Temple University women's basketball administrator Andrea Constand.

"He must serve 80 percent of three [years]. thereafter, it's up to prison officials based upon his health, his demeanor, his work in the prison, his attitude in the prison whether and if he can leave before the 10", Napolitano said.

"He hid behind Dr. Cliff Huxtable", Kevin Steele, the county district attorney who led the prosecution, told reporters afterwards. "So it's taken a long time to get there", Steele said.

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Prosecutors have argued that the nature of Cosby's crime as well as his alleged history of misconduct warrant a lengthy prison term.

Cosby's lawyers called Foley to the stand as they fought to keep him from being declared a "sexually violent predator", which would make him subject to mandatory lifetime counseling and community notification. When the ruling came down, a woman in the courtroom shot her fist into the air and whispered, "Yessss!" She said she now lives alone with her two dogs and has trouble trusting people.

". After the assault, I wasn't sure what had actually happened but the pain spoke volumes", the statement read in part.

"Now, nearly 15 years later, I'm a middle-aged woman who's been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward". "I'm not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries".

She accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 2004, and charges were filed on the cusp of the statute of limitations kicking in.

In a statement submitted to the court and released on Tuesday, the 45-year-old said she has had to cope with years of anxiety and self-doubt that have left her "stuck in a holding pattern".

In his testimony, Cosby described sexual encounters with a string of actresses, models and other young women and talked about obtaining quaaludes to give to those he wanted to sleep with.

Cosby's first trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.