A panel of three appellate judges on Tuesday rejected Bill Cosby’s appeal of his 2018 sexual assault conviction, upholding a verdict that represents one of the most high-profile convictions of the #MeToo era.
The judges in the Pennsylvania Superior Court voted unanimously against Mr. Cosby’s appeal, rejecting his lawyers’ arguments that Mr. Cosby had been denied a fair trial when he was convicted last year of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004 after giving her some pills.
Mr. Cosby, 82, is serving a three-to-10-year sentence at SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security facility outside Philadelphia. He had filed a formal appeal to his sexual assault conviction in June, arguing, among other things, that he had been improperly convicted when the judge presiding at his trial allowed into evidence the testimony of five women who, like Ms. Constand, said Mr. Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them.
In their decision, the appeals judges upheld the verdict, Mr. Cosby’s sentencing and sided with the trial judge, Judge Steven T. O’Neill, of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in all of the decisions that Mr. Cosby’s lawyers had contested.
In Pennsylvania and many other states, testimony concerning prior alleged crimes is allowed if, among other conditions, it demonstrates a signature pattern of abuse. But its inclusion is rare.
In its ruling, the appeals court rejected arguments by Mr. Cosby’s lawyers that the acts recounted by the women were too disparate to represent a pattern, stating, “It is impossible for two incidents of sexual assault involving different victims to be identical in all respects.”
It found instead that the accounts indeed represented a “distinct, signature pattern,” namely that Mr. Cosby had acted as a mentor to gain women’s trust and then used drugs to sexually assault them, calling it at one point “the Appellant’s unique sexual assault playbook.”
A spokesman for Mr. Cosby did not immediately return calls for comment.
In a statement, the Montgomery County district attorney, Kevin R. Steele, praised Ms. Constand and said her case had helped other women come forward.
“It is my hope that with this last guaranteed step in the criminal justice process now complete, the victim in this case, Andrea Constand, can finally put this assault behind her and move on with her life as the strong survivor she is,” he said. “Her bravery in coming forward when she did to report a sexual assault by a powerful, famous man led to the subsequent exposure of him as a serial predator and served as an example to other women, giving them the needed courage to step up and stand up against sexual assault.”
Mr. Cosby’s team can now apply to have their appeal heard by a higher appeals court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, though it is not guaranteed that court will agree to hear the case.
Mr. Cosby’s conviction capped the downfall of one of the world’s best-known and most popular entertainers, and offered a measure of closure to the dozens of women who for years had accused him of similar assaults. To many of them, the verdict was a momentous development, one that reflected that, going forward, the accounts of female accusers might be afforded greater weight and credibility by jurors.
He was convicted in a second trial after a first trial ended in 2017 with a hung jury.
This is a developing story and will be updated.