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Jackson weeps during sentencing for Cosby plot

Autumn Jackson
Autumn Jackson in court Friday   
December 12, 1997
Web posted at: 1:09 p.m. EST (1809 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A New York judge sentenced a tearful Autumn Jackson on Friday to 26 months in prison for trying to extort $40 million from comedian Bill Cosby, the man she claims is her father.

But U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones gave Jackson the option of reducing her sentence by completing a six-month rehabilitation program of physical wellness, education and counseling. Afterward, Jackson could become eligible for home confinement and community service.

"I've had a long time to think about what I've done and I'd like to apologize to the court and Mr. Cosby," Jackson told Jones before the sentencing.

"I only hoped that Mr. Cosby would be here and I would be able to apologize to him in person for letting him down ... and causing his family so much pain."

Jackson said she had recently married and wants to start a family.

"I knew Mr. Cosby held great expectations for me and believed in me when no one else would and I let him down. I'm so sorry."

Then Jackson sat down, bowed her head and sobbed into a tissue. Her attorney, Robert Baum, said Jones had instructed his client not to try to contact Cosby. (icon 204K/17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)


Cosby, in a taped TV interview on Thursday, said that "whatever comes down is just fine with the Cosby family." The extortion plot had unfolded at the same time as the entertainer's only son, Ennis, was murdered. Cosby didn't return phone calls seeking comment on Jackson's sentencing.

Judge used discretion

Jackson could have received up to six years in prison. In handing down the shorter sentence, Jones said she based her decision in part on Jackson's lack of sophistication, and the belief that there was no possibility that Jackson would repeat the crime.

Prosecutors had sought 51 to 57 months in prison. Baum had argued for 12 months of home detention and community service. Cosby himself had said he hoped Jackson would be sent somewhere where she could receive counseling.

Jackson and co-defendant Jose Medina, 51, were convicted in July of extortion, conspiracy and crossing state lines to commit a crime. Another defendant, Boris Sabas, was acquitted of extortion but convicted of conspiracy and crossing state lines. The others await sentencing.

Antonay Williams, whom Jackson since has wed, pleaded guilty earlier to helping the schemers.

Jurors cited taped conversation as key evidence

The defense portrayed the 23-year-old Jackson as a naive woman who believed Cosby was her father and wanted to work out a financial arrangement because of their relationship.

Prosecutors described her as a cold, calculating woman who intended to blackmail Cosby for financial gain. Much of the evidence that helped convict her came from Jackson herself, including a taped conversation in which she met with Cosby's attorney to state her price.

"OK, what I can do is, I can cut it down the middle to, and take off another five, and bring that to 25," jurors heard her say when the taped evidence was presented in court.

"Twenty-five million dollars?" Cosby's attorney, John Schmitt, asked. FBI agents had attached a recording device to Schmitt's shirt for the meeting in his Manhattan office.

"Twenty-five," she agreed.

"The tapes really convinced us of her guilt," a juror said after her conviction. "It was unquestionable, her purpose and motive and the fact she remained undeterred."

Jackson refuses to help in paternity tests

Cosby testified he had had an affair in 1974 with Jackson's mother, Shawn Thompson Upshaw, but did not believe he was Autumn Jackson's father. He also admitted that he paid Jackson's mother over the years to keep their extramarital affair a secret, giving her about $40,000 a year until he set up a trust fund for her.

The judge ruled that paternity was not an issue in the trial. Cosby offered to undergo testing to resolve the paternity question, and challenged Jackson to do likewise, but she refused.

In a letter sent to Jones before the sentencing, Jackson apologized to the entertainer for her actions, admitting she caused him "great pain and embarrassment." Also in the letter was a plea from her attorney for leniency.


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