Bill Cosby Released As Supreme Court Overturns Conviction

American stand-up comedian and actor Bill Cosby was released from prison shortly after Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court overturned his conviction for sexual assault.

The judges admitted their ruling was “unusual,” but argued that there had been a “process violation” by the prosecution. The 83-year-old man was charged with drugging and sexually abusing a former basketball player, Andrea Constand, in 2018.

Mr. Cosby, best known for his role in the 1980s TV series “The Cosby Show”, served more than two years of a three to ten-year sentence in a state prison near Philadelphia.

The former actor was found guilty of three counts of felony indecent assault against Ms. Constand, who is decades his junior. She met Mr. Cosby, whom she described as a mentor figure, in 2002 when working at Temple University in Philadelphia.

A few years later, Ms. Constand testified at the comedian’s trial, saying she became “frozen” after he drugged and abused her at his home in 2004.

His conviction was considered a watershed event for the #MeToo campaign, as it was the first one against a celebrity during the movement’s full swing.

Although Mr. Cosby was criminally prosecuted for the incident against Ms. Constand, dozens of women have publicly accused the actor of sexual assault.

According to the verdict issued Wednesday by Pennsylvania’s highest court, Mr. Cosby’s attorneys had reached an agreement with a previous state prosecutor that he would not be charged.

Ms. Constand first reported the abuse to police in 2005, but former state attorney Bruce Castor did not press criminal charges. Subsequently, she sued Mr. Cosby for sexual assault and defamation, reaching a confidential agreement in 2006.

Almost ten years later, in 2014 and 2015, dozens of women brought similar allegations of assault and drug addiction by Mr. Cosby.

Local authorities did not pursue most of the charges due to the statute of limitation rules but reopened Ms. Constand’s case and charged the former actor days before the 12-year limit on her allegations expired.

The jury did not reach a verdict in 2017, declaring a mistrial at his first trial.

However, other accusers’ testimonies were later authorized during a second trial, allowing prosecutors to identify a pattern in Mr. Cosby’s behavior. Now, the judges issued a 79-page statement arguing their decision to release him.

They cited a written agreement reached by former prosecutor Mr. Castor, stating that he would not charge Mr. Cosby if he testified in Ms. Constand’s civil lawsuit.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court also found that the trial had been tainted by the testimony of accusers unrelated to the case. “There is only one remedy that can completely restore Cosby to the status quo ante. He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred”, the finding reads.

“We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here,” it adds.