Embattled comedian Bill Cosby has served more than two years of his 3 to 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s conviction, not because the court believes him to be innocent, but because justices took issue with the way the prosecution was handled and because an agreement with a previous prosecutor in a civil case should have prevented him from being criminally charged.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the court ruled that Cosby’s 2019 sexual assault conviction will be overturned due to a “non-prosecution agreement” with a previous prosecutor. Cosby, who was denied parole in May because he refused to complete a sex offender treatment program, has made it clear that he would rather serve all 10 years in prison than admit to any wrongdoing in regards to Constand or any of his other accusers.
According to the Associated Press, the court took issue with other things revolving around the 83-year-old’s conviction, citing, for example, the allowing of five other accusers to testify during Cosby’s retrial about their experiences with him in the 1980s.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that testimony tainted the trial, even though a lower appeals court had found it appropriate to show a signature pattern of drugging and molesting women.
Cosby was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era, so the reversal could make prosecutors wary of calling other accusers in similar cases. The law on prior bad act testimony varies by state, though, and the ruling only holds sway in Pennsylvania.
Prosecutors did not immediately say if they would appeal or seek to try Cosby for a third time.
The justices voiced concern not just about sex assault cases, but what they saw as the judiciary’s increasing tendency to allow testimony that crosses the line into character attacks. The law allows the testimony only in limited cases, including to show a crime pattern so specific it serves to identify the perpetrator.
It’s been a long, controversial road for the famed The Cosby Show star and co-creator. This new development is just...egregious!
Updated: Wednesday, 6/30/2021 at 3 p.m. ET: CNN reports that Bill Cosby “has been released” from prison, according to a statement by Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokesperson Maria Bevins.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, who previously prosecuted Cosby, said in a statement confirming Cosby’s release that he was set free because of a procedural issue that is “irrelevant to the facts of the crime.”
Steele also offered words to console accuser Andrea Constand amid news of Cosby’s sexual assault conviction being overturned.
“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,” he said. “My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assaults by victims. Prosecutors in my office will continue to follow the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads. We still believe that no one is above the law—including those who are rich, famous and powerful.”