Once a beloved comedian dubbed "America's Dad," Bill Cosby became the first Hollywood celebrity to be convicted of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo era.
A Pennsylvania Supreme Court has vacated Bill Cosby's indecent assault conviction and ordered his release from prison after realizing that a previous prosecutor should have prevented him from being charged in the case. Handing down the decision on Wednesday, the court said that then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor had chosen not to prosecute the 83-year-old in an earlier case. This encouraged Cosby to speak freely in a 2005 lawsuit against him as he thought he wouldn't be incriminating himself. But later, Castor's successor Kevin Steele used this lawsuit testimony during a criminal trial and arrested him just days before the statute of limitations expired. His testimony became key in his conviction years later. "[Cosby] must be discharged [from prison], and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred," the court declared according to PEOPLE.
Mr. Cosby was released from SCI Phoenix just before 2:30 p.m. https://t.co/9OrCeutiQP— PA Department of Corrections (@CorrectionsPA) June 30, 2021
Once a beloved comedian dubbed "America's Dad," Cosby became the first Hollywood celebrity to be convicted of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo era. He was arrested in December 2015 and convicted in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near Philadelphia back in 2004, which was reported the following year. Per CBS Philly, he was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for the felony sexual assault after he admitted in his testimony to have given the accuser, Andrea Constand, an unidentified pill that knocked her out that night. Although defending lawyers argued that the interaction was consensual, Cosby was quickly denounced after dozens of women accused him of a similar pattern of sexual assault over the years.
I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence.— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) June 30, 2021
Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law. #BillCosby pic.twitter.com/bxELvJWDe5
Last month, Cosby was denied parole as he refused to take part in a treatment program for sex offenders and violence prevention. According to ABC News, two lower courts declined to overturn his conviction but then the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. After having served more than two years of his sentence, Cosby was released from the SCI Phoenix detention center situated about 35 miles northeast of Philadelphia just before 2:30 p.m. Thanking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the legal team, Cosby's spokesman Andrew Wyatt described Wednesday's ruling a moment of justice for Black Americans. "This is the justice Mr. Cosby has been fighting for," said Wyatt. "They saw the light. He waived his Fifth Amendment right and settled out of court. He was given a deal and he had immunity. He should have never been charged."
Bill Cosby being released after more than 50 women credibly accused him of sexual assault. Simply incredible!— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) June 30, 2021
Cosby's victim, Andrea Constand, released a joint statement with her attorneys on the same day and claimed that she was never privy to any sort of prosecutorial deal with the comedian in 2005 (It was said that Cosby paid $3.38 to settle the suit that Constand had filed against him. Apparently, Castor said he reached an agreement with Cosby to never prosecute him if he testified for a deposition in the civil suit by Constand). "Today's majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action," read the statement according to NBC News.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns Bill Cosby's 2018 sexual assault conviction. The actor could soon be released from prison.https://t.co/TNOmC3XLay— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 30, 2021
The decision to drop the charges against Cosby did not sit well with Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele. "He was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime," said Steele in a statement. "I want to commend Cosby’s victim Andrea Constand for her bravery in coming forward and remaining steadfast throughout this long ordeal, as well as all of the other women who have shared similar experiences. My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assaults by victims." Even the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) condemned the court ruling. "We are deeply disappointed in today’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and by the message this decision sends to the brave survivors who came forward to seek justice for what Bill Cosby did to them," expressed RAINN President Scott Berkowitz. "This is not justice."
Cover image source: Getty | Photo by Michael Abbott