Bill Cosby guilty verdict a warning shot to Harvey Weinstein and all others | Maria Panaritis

Comedian and actor Bill Cosby left Montgomery County Courthouse grim-faced Thursday after a jury found him guilty in a sexual assault case that could send him to prison for up to 30 years.

Harvey Weinstein had better be afraid. Very afraid.

Because the Hollywood mogul, who is the still-under-investigation-scandalized centerpiece of the explosive #MeToo movement, and all other alleged sexual abusers with power and influence have been warned.

You are no longer safe.

The cannon shot was fired from a Montgomery County courtroom Thursday when a jury of seven men and five women in Norristown, the impoverished county seat of one of Philadelphia’s most affluent suburban counties, convicted entertainment mogul Bill Cosby of all three counts of sexual assault he faced.

The jurors buried Cosby and believed Andrea Constand.

The jurors buried the TV icon and Temple University legend because they believed his accuser, a relatively unknown former Temple University employee who had the guts to take Cosby to court and the stomach to not give up until she got her due.

The jurors buried Cosby despite high-powered defense lawyers and their breathtaking campaign of courtroom smears against Constand and all the women who described his depravities.

California attorney Tom Mesereau helped Michael Jackson beat child sex-abuse charges years ago, but this was #MeToo now. The tactic of caveman-era character assassinations on Constand and each of the five other women who testified that Cosby had assaulted them backfired.

“Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.”

Andrea Constand, left, leans into her attorney Delores Troiani, right, during Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele’s press conference after the guilty verdict against Bll Cosby on three counts of sexual assualt on Thursday April 26, 2018. 

This was the sound of a new era. It was a roar. And it should ring fear in the ears of anyone who thinks shielding an abusive, powerful man from justice any longer shall be as easy as Smear, Scare, and Repeat.

“Justice has been done!” said attorney Gloria Allred, the Philadelphia-area native whose own grit has made her a trailblazer in helping women prevail in sexual-assault claims against powerful men. She represented three of the five supporting witnesses who testified in this, the second trial against Cosby after his first ended last year with a deadlocked jury. She represents 33 of Cosby’s more than 60 accusers nationwide.

“We are so happy that finally we can say, ‘Women are believed,’ and not only on ‘hashtag #MeToo,’ but in a court of law,” an exultant Allred said outside the courthouse.  “After all is said and done, women were finally believed.”

As Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele stood before hordes of worldwide media to praise his modest team’s extraordinary victory as a win for women everywhere, he stopped for a moment to consider how close Constand had come to never seeing this day.

This is what prosecutors everywhere must now judge themselves against.

Had it not been for Steele and his predecessor at the helm of the DA’s Office, Risa Vetri Ferman,  who is known across Montgomery County for her lifelong commitment to seeking justice for women and children, this District Attorney’s Office would have gone down in history as the one that looked the other way on Cosby.

Former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. declined in a 2005 decision to charge Cosby when Constand told investigators about the January 2004 attack. Ferman and Steele were the ones who clawed for justice by filing charges in December 2015, just days before it would have been too late under the law to ever charge Cosby.

Camera icon MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, center, talks about how his team was able to convict Bill Cosby on all three counts of sexual assualt during Cosby’s retrial in Norristown, PA, on Thursday April 26, 2018.

And yet, Steele felt an apology was in order.

“On behalf of our office,” Steele said quietly, as Constand stood a few feet away from him and his team, “we are sorry for what happened then. But we got a chance to make up for it.”

To all others working cases against powerful men, may this office be your beacon.