Bill Cosby Freed From Prison After Sexual Assault Conviction Overturned By Pennsylvania Supreme Court – CBS Philly
KITCHENER (CBS / AP) – Bill Cosby was released from prison after Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction.
In the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on Bill Cosby – a jury still convicted him of aggravated assault – but legal experts say that ruling now puts him out of the reach of Pennsylvania law. The decision is a warning to the public prosecutor. @CBSPhilly
– Joe Holden (@ JoeHoldenCBS3) June 30, 2021
Cosby has served over two years of a three to ten year prison term in a state prison near Philadelphia. He had vowed to serve out every 10 years instead of recognizing remorse over meeting prosecutor Andrea Constand in 2004.
The Montgomery County District Attorney issued a statement regarding Cosby’s release:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s majority decision orders the release of William H. Cosby Jr. from state prison. He was found guilty by a jury and is now free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime. I want to praise Cosby’s victim, Andrea Constand, for her courage to come forward and stand firm during this long ordeal, as well as all other women who have had similar experiences. I hope this decision does not dampen reporting of sexual assault by victims. The 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.
83-year-old Cosby, once loved as “America’s father”, has been convicted of drugging and molesting a Temple University employee on his suburban estate.
According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the judges “did not question the prosecutors’ discretion as to whether a particular case should be charged,” but rather the court was examining whether the charges were brought under due process.
Phylicia Rashad, who played Clair Huxtable on the Cosby Show, took to social media after hearing the news that Cosby would be released.
“FINALLY !!!! A terrible injustice will be redressed – a miscarriage of justice will be corrected,” tweeted Rashad.
IN THE END!!!! A terrible injustice will be redressed – a miscarriage of justice will be corrected! pic.twitter.com/NrGUdwr23c
– Phylicia Rashad (@PhyliciaRashad) June 30, 2021
He was charged in late 2015 when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence – Cosby’s damaging testimony from her lawsuit – arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.
The trial judge had only allowed one other prosecutor to testify at Cosby’s first trial when the jury was bogged down. However, he then allowed five other prosecutors to testify on retrial about their experience with Cosby in the 1980s.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the testimony spoiled the trial, despite a lower appeals court finding it appropriate to show a typical pattern of substance abuse and harassment of women.
Cosby was the first celeb to be tried and convicted in the #MeToo era, so overturning it could put prosecutors back from calling other prosecutors on similar cases. However, previous testimony laws vary by state, and the verdict applies only in Pennsylvania.
Prosecutors didn’t immediately say whether they would appeal or try Cosby a third time.
In addition to expressing concern about sexual assault cases, the judges saw the judiciary’s increasing tendency to allow testimony that crosses the line into character assault. The law only allows testimony to be given in limited cases, also to reveal a crime pattern so specific that it serves to identify the perpetrator.
In New York, the judge who led the trial last year of film mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose case sparked the explosion of the #MeToo movement in 2017, had four other prosecutors testify. Weinstein was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He is now facing separate charges in California.
In Cosby’s case, one of his appellate attorneys said prosecutors had provided vague evidence of the unindicted behavior, including Cosby’s own recollections in his testimony of giving alcohol or quaaludes to women before sexual encounters.
“There was simply no presumption of innocence for him,” argued attorney Jennifer Bonjean in court in December.
In May, Cosby was denied parole after refusing to participate in programs for sex offenders during nearly three years in state prison. He has long stated that he would oppose treatment programs and refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing, even if it meant serving a full 10-year prison sentence.
This marks the first year he has been given a three to ten year suspended sentence following his 2018 conviction.
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt called the parole board’s decision “appalling”.
Prosecutors said Cosby repeatedly used his fame and “family man” personality to manipulate young women and pretended to mentor himself before betraying them.
Cosby, a pioneering black actor who grew up in a council flat in Philadelphia, made a fortune estimated at $ 400 million during his 50 years in the entertainment industry. His trademark clean comedy and homely wisdom fueled popular TV shows, books and stand-up acts.
In his later years, he fell from grace lecturing the black community on family values, but made a comeback when he was arrested.
“Because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he posed as a public moralist, a relationship of trust was built in,” argued deputy district attorney Adrienne Jappe from a suburb of Montgomery County to the judges.
Cosby had invited Constand to a property in Pennsylvania that he owned the night she said he drugged and sexually abused her.
Constand, a former professional basketball player who worked on his alma mater, joined the police a year later. The other prosecutors knew Cosby through the entertainment industry and didn’t go to the police.
The AP does not usually identify victims of sexual assault without their permission, which Constand has given.
Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.