NORRISTOWN >> A Collegeville woman says her only goal was to have a video “go viral” when she recorded a portion of Bill Cosby’s sex assault trial and posted it to a popular social media site.
Instead, 37-year-old Anitra Burrows got an admonishment from a judge and an order to perform community service.
“It was selfish and it was irresponsible,” Montgomery County President Judge Thomas M. DelRicci sternly addressed Burrows during a hearing on Thursday, adding Burrows was interested only in herself and her “popularity on the Internet” when she audiotaped, in violation of a court order, a portion of Cosby’s high-profile trial while attending it on June 12. “That’s irresponsible as well as being selfish.
“So many things could have gone wrong. You need to understand that every action is not about you, it’s about other people and the rights of other people. This type of conduct cannot be tolerated,” DelRicci told Burrows, who appeared in court with her father.
DelRicci banned Burrows from attending any future Cosby trial proceedings and he told her to perform 50 hours of community service by year’s end for violating a court order.
Appearing extremely contrite, Burrows, who obtained a public pass to attend Cosby’s trial, admitted that on June 12 she audiotaped the closing argument of defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle and took still photographs of the trial and posted it on her YouTube social media account.
The video included still photographs taken by Burrows from inside Courtroom C, the overflow courtroom where attendees could view a livestream of the trial, taking place in Courtroom A, on a large projection screen. The photos were synchronized with the audio of McMonagle’s closing argument, which lasted more than 90 minutes, and posted to YouTube.
“The only reason was to have a video go viral. I just figured this is my one time to have a video go viral. I didn’t realize the ramifications of what I was doing,” said Burrows, maintaining she has “integrity and a high moral fiber.” “I usually am wise. Unfortunately, this time I had a lapse of judgment. I didn’t do it out of malicious intent. I truly, truly am sorry. I pray for the mercy of the court.”
The judge found Burrows’ apology to be sincere.
“I think at this point in time you understand what occurred here and the ramifications of what occurred here,” DelRicci said to Burrows.
Burrows’ recording never did “go viral” as she had hoped. It listed only about 140 views before it was deleted by Burrows and an investigation ensued by county detectives.
“We’re reasonably sure that it’s not floating out there but I can’t say 100 percent,” said county Deputy District Attorney Thomas W. McGoldrick.
McGoldrick told the judge Burrows cooperated with detectives, was remorseful and that the video was not readily available on YouTube anymore.
“In my opinion, I believe her apology was very sincere. She was very cooperative and her family, I should note, was very cooperative with the investigators,” said McGoldrick, who added the judge “crafted a fair sentence.” “He considered the seriousness of violating a court order but he also considered the fact that Miss Burrows was very apologetic and admitted that she had made a mistake by doing what she did.”
While the judge accepted Burrows’ apology as sincere he said she was mistaken to describe her conduct as “a lapse of judgment.”
“That’s an intentional act,” said DelRicci, referring to the fact Burrows was aware of a court order that prohibited recording the Cosby proceedings.
Under a May 18 decorum order issued specifically for Cosby’s trial, “no electronic transmission, video recording, sound recording or any other electronic duplication of the proceedings of any type” was permitted in Courtroom A or Courtroom C.
“Any person who violates the provisions of this order regarding the use of electronic devices will be subject to the penalties for contempt of court (including fines or summary incarceration) under any applicable statute, order or rule of court,” DelRicci and Judge Steven T. O’Neill, who presided over Cosby’s trial, wrote in the decorum order.
Thirty seats were reserved for the general public in Courtroom A and Courtroom C, the overflow courtroom, each day of the trial and members of the public received daily passes.
“A court order is, in and of itself, an important thing and should be followed. As the judge mentioned in court…any court order that goes to ensuring a fair trial for a defendant is very important,” said McGoldrick, adding he believes the punishment doled out to Burrows will serve as a deterrent to others considering similar conduct in the future.
Court administrators repeatedly warned members of the media and the public against using electronic devices in the courtrooms during the 11-day trial that began June 5.
Several reporters were removed from Courtroom A and lost their credentials to cover the trial when administrators observed them texting on cellphones or surfing websites on their computers. Reporters were permitted to use computers in the courtroom but only for notetaking.
Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibit the recording or photographing of judicial proceedings. Specifically, Rule 112 prohibits “the taking of photographs, video or motion pictures of any judicial proceedings or in the hearing room or courtroom or its environs during the judicial proceedings.”
Violations of such rules can result in a finding of contempt which can carry penalties ranging from fines to incarceration.
On June 17, Judge O’Neill declared a mistrial at the Cosby trial after the seven men and five women on the jury told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked on the charges after deliberating more than 52 hours over six days. Cosby, who turned 80 on July 12, is charged with three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with allegations he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, the former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University, at his Cheltenham mansion in mid-January 2004.
District Attorney Kevin R. Steele informed the judge he would retry Cosby. A retrial is currently slated to begin Nov. 6.