Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction of indecent assault.
The state’s highest court overturned Cosby’s conviction based on an agreement he made with a former prosecutor that would have prevented Cosby from being prosecuted in the case.
The ruling prohibits a retrial, court documents say.
The 83-year-old comedian was sentenced to three to ten years in prison for two years.
Cosby’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt, who went to jail to get Cosby, said, “We want to thank the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This is what we fought for and that is justice and justice for black America.”
“This is the justice that Mr. Cosby fought for. You saw the light,” Wyatt said, according to NBC News. “He got a deal and he had immunity. He should never have been charged.”
Cosby was charged with drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, the former Temple University employee whose allegation formed the basis of the criminal investigation, on his property in 2004. He was charged with the alleged assault in 2015 and arrested just days before the 12-year law of restrictions expired. He was convicted in 2018. He said his contact with Constand was consensual.
“[Cosby] was found guilty by a jury and is now free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime, “District Attorney Kevin Steele said in a statement Wednesday.” I hope this decision will not dampen sexual assault reporting “Of victims. Prosecutors in my office will continue to pursue the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads. We still believe that no one is above the law – including the rich, famous and powerful.”
A written agreement from former Montgomery County Attorney Bruce Castor said he would not prosecute Cosby in the Constand case. Castor testified that during his tenure as district attorney, he promised not to file a criminal complaint against the comedian if Cosby testified in a civil lawsuit filed by Constand in 2005.
Castor had determined that prosecutors would have difficulty confirming forensic evidence without Cosby admitting the alleged allegations.
“In seeking ‘a measure of justice’ for Constand, DA Castor decided that the Commonwealth would refuse to prosecute Cosby for the Constand incident, which could compel Cosby to be penalized without perjury in a subsequent civil lawsuit Advantage to testify his privilege of the fifth constitutional amendment against self-incriminating “, it says in the court document.
Cosby testified during four days of testimony from Constand’s attorneys, and the 2006 civil lawsuit was settled for more than $ 3 million.
In 2015, Steele, who succeeded Castor as district attorney, filed a criminal complaint that resulted in Cosby’s incarceration. Castor is also known to defend former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
The Supreme Court’s opinion also contradicted the judge’s decision to have the prosecution name five other prosecutors in addition to Constand.
Originally, the trial judge had only allowed one other prosecutor to testify at Cosby’s first trial. However, after the jury got bogged down, the judge then allowed five other prosecutors to testify at Cosby’s retrial. They made various allegations, from inadvertent groping to sexual assault to rape. Cosby has denied these allegations of misconduct.
That statement spoiled the trial, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said, even though the lower appeals court found it appropriate to display a pattern of behavior.
The court ultimately neglected the admissibility of the five other prosecutors as it overturned the verdict based on the agreement with the former prosecutor that prevented Cosby from being prosecuted.
“After discovering a due process violation here, we need to determine what legal remedies Cosby is entitled to,” the court document reads.
Cosby’s release prompted film producer Harvey Weinstein’s legal team to issue a statement addressing the court’s decision.
“With the overturning of Bill Cosby’s conviction, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has proven once again that no matter who a defendant is or what type of crime it is, the courts can be relied on to obey the law and make the right decisions make decision, “Weinstein’s appellate attorney said in a written statement.” This decision also reaffirms our confidence that the Appeals Department in New York will make the similarly correct decision on Harvey Weinstein’s appeal, given the plethora of problems crying out for repentance. “
Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison on a rape and sexual assault case that sparked the #MeToo movement in the United States. Weinstein’s case mirrored Cosby’s in many ways. In both cases, the judges allowed prosecutors to bring allegations made by other women who had not brought separate charges against the defendants in order to identify a pattern of behavior.
Cosby’s lawyers had challenged this statement as part of their appeal. However, the court did not rule on this issue, instead focusing on the previous agreement that precluded prosecution.
Weinstein, an influential figure in Hollywood, has denied any wrongdoing and is appealing the New York court’s decision.
Separately, Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby’s wife on television, was harshly criticized when she heard of his release.
Rashad tweeted that the court’s decision was a “terrible injustice … redeemed”.
While Rashad has supported her longtime co-star in the past, she recently took on a new role as dean of Howard University’s newly formed and renamed Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. Given her new role, some wondered how she would deal with possible allegations of sexual assault against students.
Linda Correia, a Washington attorney who sued Howard University in 2017 on behalf of six then-students at the university for failing to respond properly to their complaints about sexual violence, said she was not surprised by Rashad’s tweet.
“She always supported him,” said Correia, whose clients last year settled their lawsuit with Howard on unspecified terms. “I would say that I think any statement that contradicts the recognition of miscarriage of justice for those women who had the courage to come forward is not what student survivors are likely to want to see now.”