Bill Cosby has been released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the disgraced comedian’s 2018 sexual assault conviction, after finding a previous prosecutor had made an agreement with Cosby not to charge him based on testimony he’d provided years earlier. Cosby had served nearly three years of the potential 10-year sentence.
In 2018, Cosby was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his Philadelphia home in 2004, marking one of the first major convictions of the #MeToo era.
However, the Pennsylvania court found that a state prosecutor, Bruce Castor, had struck a deal with Cosby’s attorneys in 2005 not to prosecute him under any conditions for providing testimony in Constand’s civil case against him, thus compelling him to testify. Constand was paid $3.38 million at the time in a settlement by Cosby.
When his sworn deposition was unsealed by a judge in 2015, a new district attorney, Kevin Steele, used it to charge Cosby less than two weeks before the statute of limitations was set to expire. The proceeding prosecution and conviction, hence, contravened Cosby’s legal rights, given the earlier deal his attorneys had made with Castor. Justice David Wecht said that overturning Cosby’s convictions and barring any future prosecution on the charges was “the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”
Cosby was released from a state prison in Shippack, Pennsylvania shortly after the finding, and returned home just before 2:30pm on Wednesday, 30th June, speaking to the press outside his mansion. District attorney Steele, who brought forth the charges Cosby was convicted on, said that his release was based “on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime.”
Cosby is largely known for his role playing a husband and father in the 1980s series The Cosby Show, but his reputation and innocent persona as “America’s Dad” was tarnished after over 60 women accused him of sexual assault across multiple decades. His release has been met with relief from his supporters, with lawyers hailing it a win for the Constitution, but has also seen condemnation from many survivors of sexual assault, who see it as a reversal of justice.
Actress and Time’s Up co-founder Amber Tamblyn said she was “furious” to hear the news of Cosby’s release. “I personally know women who this man drugged and raped while unconscious. Shame on the court and this decision.”
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