Bill Cosby was released from prison on Wednesday and be a free man after Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned his 2018 sexual assault conviction.
The 83-year-old comedian has served three years of a three- to 10-year prison sentence in state prison over a felony sexual assault charge 2018. In overturning the conviction the state Supreme Court ruled that Cosby cannot be retried on the same charges.
Though last year, a Pennsylvania appeals court upheld Cosby’s conviction, rejecting his legal team’s argument that he wasn’t given a fair trial, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court focused two points. The court looked at whether the trial judge should have allowed the five “prior bad acts” witnesses to testify, as well as whether the judge should have allowed Cosby’s deposition from a civil lawsuit to be used in the trial after Cosby said he was previously promised by a district attorney that he wouldn’t be prosecuted for those oral and written statements.
The court decided based on the second point, writing in its opinion that the decision to prosecute “does not mean that its exercise is free of the constraints of due process.”
“When an unconditional charging decision is made publicly and with the intent to induce action and reliance by the defendant, and when the defendant does so to his detriment (and in some instances upon the advice of counsel), denying the defendant the benefit of that decision is an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was foregone for more than a decade. No mere changing of the guard strips that circumstance of its inequity,” the court wrote in its conclusion. “A contrary result would be patently untenable. It would violate long-cherished principles of fundamental fairness. It would be antithetical to, and corrosive of, the integrity and functionality of the criminal justice system that we strive to maintain.”
Cosby has long maintained his innocence against accusations of sexual assault. A rep for Cosby did not immediately respond to TheWrap for a request for comment.
Cosby, once considered “America’s Dad,” was one of the first and highest profile #MeToo cases of the last few years, and his conviction represented a sea change in how the culture approaches issues of sexual violence.
Bill Cosby was convicted in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand, at his home in 2004. Though the case involves just one woman, at least 60 women have come forward to accuse the former entertainer of sexual assault.
Cosby in 2019 claimed his trial was a “set up” and said he would not say he has any “remorse” when he came up for parole.
“When I come up for parole, they’re not going to hear me say that I have remorse. I was there. I don’t care what group of people come along and talk about this when they weren’t there. They don’t know,” he said during a wide-ranging interview with Black Press USA from a maximum-security penitentiary in Pennsylvania back in 2019.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.
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