Portland News

Bill Cosby’s Sentence Overturned

Source: AP News

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned Bill Cosby’s indecent assault conviction. On Wednesday, the court ordered the release of the comic actor from prison after discovering that he was not given protection against self-incrimination.

During the trial that convicted the 83-year-old comic actor, the prosecutor used Cosby’s testimony from an earlier case where he made incriminating statements. Meanwhile, the earlier case did not come with charges as the prosecutor decided not to charge him and gave Cosby the freedom to speak. Those incriminating statements were vital in the conviction that sent him to prison in 2018.

Bill Cosby was convicted on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault, which happened in 2004. He was sentenced to a three-to-ten-year sentence out of which he already served almost three years. According to the Supreme Court, Cosby cannot be tried again on those same charges. 

Cosby’s prosecution was one of the first milestones of the #MeToo movement, which had women globally coming forward with stories of unwanted sexual advances and harassment in the workplace.

Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s spokesman, thanked his legal team and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in what he called “a moment of justice for Black Americans.” 

“Mr. Cosby has fought for justice long enough. He waived his Fifth Amendment right and settled out of court with a deal. He was given immunity and should never have been charged,” Wyatt said.

Cosby was released about two hours after the ruling was published. The freed comedian was driven to his home, Elkins Park, dressed in a maroon T-shirt and baggy blue pants. He later called WDAS-FM, a local Philadelphia radio station, where he said the audience needed guidance and clarity. “This is not just about being black,” Cosby said. “It is for everyone wrongfully in prison regardless of color, race, or creed. I met many of them in there who talked about what happened and what they did,” he added.

In a tweet on Wednesday after his release, “My story and stance have never changed. I have insisted on my innocence, and I want to thank all my fans, friends, and supporters who supported me through this ordeal. I also thank the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law.”

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele has tagged the state high court’s findings as a “procedural issue.”

“A jury found him guilty, and now he’s free on a procedural issue that isn’t relevant to the facts of the case,” Steele said.

Cosby, who was once called “America’s Dad,” was imprisoned in 2018 after getting convicted for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand. Constand testified that the assault happened in 2004 in his home when she visited him for career advice. Contrarily, Bruce Castor, the Montgomery district attorney at the time, did not press charges against the comic actor, and he went ahead to provide four sworn depositions. D.A. Castor’s successor then filed a criminal case against Cosby in which the comedian’s statements in the depositions were used at its trial.

According to Justice Dougherty, “Cosby’s prosecution can be likened to a “coercive bait-and-switch” after Casor refused to push a criminal case. The judge also said vacating the conviction was not the best line of action and argued that the comedian could return to trial, except that evidence gotten from his civil suit deposition will not be admissible in another trial.

The public and many women’s rights organizations have expressed their disappointment in the justice system. 

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.