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Why Bill Cosby conviction is a rarity: Sexual assault cases by the numbers

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: sexual assault cases by the numbers; Iranian authorities say they have arrested 22 people after Saturday's deadly attack on a military parade; Céline Dion will play her last Las Vegas show next June

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby, escorted by police, arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Pennsylvania for sentencing on Monday. In April, Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • Bill Cosby is going to jail for sexual assault, but the harsh reality in both the United States and Canada remains that most people accused are never charged, let alone convicted.
  • Iranian authorities say they have arrested 22 people in connection with a deadly attack on a military parade last weekend that left at least 29 people dead.
  • Céline Dion has announced that she will end her residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas next June.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here

Sexual assaults

Bill Cosby was once the world's favourite TV dad. Now a Pennsylvania judge has officially labelled him a "sexually violent predator" and is sending him to jail.

This afternoon, the 81-year-old comedian was handed a three to 10 year sentence for drugging and assaulting a Toronto woman, Andrea Constand, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

This means he will serve a minimum of 36 months in state prison before becoming eligible for supervised release.

The predator classification will see Cosby's name added to the state's sex offender registry. It also requires him to undergo counselling and report regularly to police for the rest of his life.

Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse in Pennsylvania on Monday. On Tuesday he was sentenced to three to 10 years in jail for his sexual assault conviction. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Despite the outcome, the harsh reality in both the United States and Canada remains that most people accused of sexual assault are never charged, let alone convicted.

Government surveys of American crime victims suggest that around 35 per cent of rapes are reported to police, and that just 18 per cent of those complaints result in an arrest. Fewer than one in five rape cases in the U.S. proceed to trial, where there is about a 50 per cent conviction rate.

All of which leads the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, America's largest anti-sexual violence organization, to conclude that for every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free.

In 2017, Statistics Canada crunched six years worth of sex assault data and came to some equally sobering conclusions.

  • Between 2009 and 2014, police forces across the country reported 93,501 sexual assault complaints.
  • Just over 40,400 of those reports — 43 per cent — resulted in a criminal charges.
  • Among those, 49 per cent — 19,800 cases — made it to court.
  • 15,800 trials were completed, resulting in 8,742 findings of guilt.
  • In the end, 3,846 adults were sentenced to jail terms.

What that means in stark terms in that over that period, only 12 per cent of sexual assault reports in Canada resulted in a conviction, and just 7 per cent saw the accused end up in prison.

Artist Bird Miliken protests outside Bill Cosby's sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday. (Jessica Kourkounis/Reuters)
As StatsCan notes, there are many factors that shape those numbers.

The length of time between the alleged assault and a victim making a report is crucial. StatsCan says 53 per cent of complaints filed on the same day as the incident ended up in court, compared to just 19 per cent of assaults that were said to have occurred a year or more in the past.

The relationship between the alleged perpetrator and the victim also has a bearing, with 64 per cent of strangers charged ending up in court, versus 47 per cent of accused who are known to the complainant, and just 36 per cent of relatives.

When it comes to parents who are alleged to have sexually assaulted their children, only 13 per cent of reports lodged with police in Canada result in a conviction.

Even geography plays a role, with sex assaults in major cities more likely to proceed to court than those reported in outlying or rural areas — 52 per cent versus 46 per cent. Although those cases tried in big, urban courts are less likely to result in a conviction than those heard in smaller locales — 48 per cent compared to 56 per cent.

The starkest numbers, however, are found in the estimates of how many sexual assaults still go unreported.

A different 2017 Statistics Canada study, based on victim surveys, suggests that there are 630,000 sexual assaults a year across the country. Which, if accurate, means that sex assaults remain the violent crime that is least likely to be reported to police.

Iran attack

Iranian authorities say that they have arrested 22 people in connection with a deadly attack on a military parade last weekend that left at least 29 people dead.

On Saturday, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, several gunmen dressed in military uniforms sprayed a reviewing stand with bullets during an event commemorating the start of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

A soldier runs past comrades taking cover on the ground at the scene of an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, on Saturday that was marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. (Morteza Jaberian/AFP/Getty Images)
Today, the country's intelligence ministry issued a statement claiming that it had located and raided the "terrorists' hideout" and made close to two dozen arrests, seizing explosives, weapons and communications equipment.

It identified the detainees as members of a "jihadist separatist group," and promised that more information will soon be released about the "foreign sponsors and supporters of this terrorist act."

The militant group was not named, but there are reports that al-Ahvaziya, a local Arab separatist movement, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Islamic State has also said that its "soldiers" were behind the killings, issuing a video of three men riding in a pickup truck talking about their plans in Farsi.

Iran has been quick to blame foreign powers for the attack, with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, stating that the U.S. and its "allies in the region" instigated the violence.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks, seen in this June 2009 file photo, accused the U.S. and its regional allies Monday of being behind Saturday's attack on a military parade. (Caren Firouz/Reuters)
Today, the senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Esmayeel Kossari, claimed to have documents linking America, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the armed group.

"The Americans gave orders to Riyadh and supported this attack," he told local media.

His deputy, Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, told a state news agency that the attackers had "undergone training in two countries in the Persian Gulf."

Iranians carry the body of a victim of Saturday's parade attack during a public funeral ceremony on Monday for the 29 people killed. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)
The Americans have flatly rejected the accusations, with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, saying that Iran needs to "look in the mirror."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had "oppressed his people for a long time and he needs to look at his own base to figure out where that's coming from," she said during a television interview.

And during his own speech before the UN General Assembly today, President Donald Trump stepped up his own verbal attacks on the Islamic Republic.

"Iran's leaders sow chaos, death and destruction," he said. "They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran's leaders plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."

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Leaving Las Vegas

Céline Dion is done with Vegas.

The Quebec-born chanteuse has announced that she will end her eight-year residency at Caesars Palace next June.

"I definitely have mixed emotions about this final run. Las Vegas has become my home, and performing at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace has been a big part of my life for the past two decades," Dion said in a statement.

But there's no need to feel sorry for the 50-year-old. This stint in the American desert — her second following a 2003 to 2007 residency, also at Caesars — has earned her $500,000 per show, making her one of America's richest women.

Celine Dion performs 'The Show Must Go On' at the 2016 Billboard Awards in Las Vegas. She has announced that she'll end her residency at Ceasar's Palace with a final show in June 2019. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
This year Forbes magazine ranked Dion number 46 on its list of "self-made women," estimating her net worth at $430 million US ($557 million Cdn), with the lion's share of her fortune having come from her 12 years of Vegas crooning.

Last year, on another list, Forbes called Dion America's second-richest "female celebrity," ahead of Barbara Streisand, Judge Judy and Béyonce, and behind only Madonna.

And no one is pushing Dion out the door.

The residency has grossed more than $233 million US to date — despite a protracted 2015 break while her husband René Angélil battled terminal cancer, and a shorter hiatus following ear surgery this year. And the crowds continue to come, helping to propel her to the highest average ticket price in North America last year at $168.29 per ducat.

The marquee at Caesars Palace shows a tribute to Rene Angelil under an image of his wife, singer Celine Dion, on Jan. 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Adding her international appearances, Dion's 2017 concerts grossed $101.2 million US, earning her the title of world's most successful female artist and 11th biggest act overall, even though it has been almost five years since her last English studio album.

Dion's Vegas success has encouraged other big-name acts to try out the casino circuit.

Lady Gaga will begin a residency at Park MGM resort this December with two different shows, one featuring full pop and the other "jazz and piano" versions of her songs. Both will earn her a reported $1 million-plus per performance.

Lady Gaga attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'A Star Is Born' on Monday at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The actor and singer will begin a residency at Park MGM resort in Las Vegas in December. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
Britney Spears is alive and well and living in Vegas, as are Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez and the Backstreet Boys.

And Aerosmith — combined age 338 — will kick off an 18-date residency at the MGM next April.

Dion stands to earn at least $25 million more over her remaining nine months in Vegas.

And there is no indication that she is backing away from touring or recording.

A few words on ...

Fighting the power to get the electricity back on.

Quote of the moment

"What is a school there for if they're not going to have pre- and post-conversations about literature that begin in the classroom? That's the whole point."

- David Alexander Robertson, a Governor General-award-winning Indigenous author, reacts to the Edmonton school board's inclusion of some of his works on a "Books to Weed Out" list, over concerns about their "sensitive" references to abuse at residential schools.

David Alexander Robertson, winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature— illustrated books, says it was important for him 'to try and educate kids about residential school history.' (Provided by David Robertson)

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Today in history

Sept. 25, 2000: Is violence a problem in the National Hockey League?

On the eve of Marty McSorley's trial for his on-ice assault of Donald Brashear, The National's Tom Alderman takes a hard look at violence in the NHL. Many saw it as a watershed moment for the game. Not in the short term, however.  McSorley received a conditional discharge, although he never played another game in the bigs. Brashear played 10 more seasons, racking up his own share of suspensions and time in the sin bin. Today he remains 15th overall on the league's list of all-time penalty minutes, 11 spots behind McSorley.

As player Marty McSorley faces criminal charges for his attack on Donald Brashear in 2000, reporter Tom Alderman examines the culture of violence in the NHL... 20:21

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.