Culture

Bill Cosby Was Released From Prison — Why the Court Overturned His Conviction

In a baffling and upsetting turn of events, the disgraced entertainer walked free.

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Bill Cosby Was Released From Prison — Why the Court Overturned His Conviction

In a baffling and upsetting turn of events, the disgraced entertainer walked free.

On Wednesday, Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction was thrown out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, freeing the disgraced comedian from a 10-year prison sentence. Cosby, who is 83, spent the last three years behind bars and was recently denied parole for refusing to participate in a therapy program for sex offenders.

The court’s decision has led many to wonder how a man with more than 50 accusers is allowed to walk free. Allegations of groping, assault and rape against the entertainer date as far back as the 1960s. Despite the wealth of testimony against Cosby, his release stems from a deal he made with Bruce Castor, the former district attorney of Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, in 2005. That year, Andrea Constand, a former mentee of Cosby’s, came forward with allegations that he had drugged and molested her in 2004. Castor, who recently represented Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, said Constand did not have enough evidence to pursue a conviction — instead, he suggested she file a civil lawsuit. If Cosby agreed to sit for a deposition in the suit, Castor promised he would not face criminal charges.

During the deposition, Cosby admitted to administering sedatives to women he wanted to have sex with, though he maintained the drug-taking and physical contact was consensual. He also admitted to giving Constand one-and-a-half tablets of Benadryl to “relieve stress.”

In 2015, Constand’s case was reopened. Cosby’s deposition from 2005 was used as evidence in his trial, which ultimately resulted in his 2018 conviction of aggravated indecent assault. Now, the court has ruled that the use of Cosby’s deposition was unconstitutional due to the deal he had made with Castor prior.

“We hold that, when a prosecutor makes an unconditional promise of non-prosecution, and when the defendant relies upon that guarantee to the detriment of his constitutional right not to testify, the principle of fundamental fairness that undergirds due process of law in our criminal justice system demands that the promise be enforced,” Justice David Norman Wecht wrote. The court’s decision prevents Cosby from facing any future criminal charges related to Constand’s case.

Constand and her lawyers described Cosby’s release as “disappointing,” and expressed concern that that it may discourage survivors of sexual assault from pursuing legal action. “Despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, this was an important fight for justice,” said Gloria Allred, the famed women’s rights lawyer who represented many of Cosby’s accusers. “Even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby’s conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused,” she added.

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