The conviction of former comedian Bill Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault has been overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, ending over two years of prison time of his three to 10-year sentence. The court cited testimony that was allowed to take place during Cosby’s retrial in 2018 from his previous victims in order to establish that he had engaged in a pattern of sexual predation as well as broken promises by the prosecuting attorney.
More than 60 women have accused the comedian of everything from sexual misconduct to rape, often with the use of incapacitating drugs. Prosecutors have not yet stated if they will attempt to appeal this decision or seek a third trial.
In spite of the massive number of accusations, the state Supreme Court found that actions by the prosecutors violated Cosby’s constitutional right to a fair trial. They cited the fact that the judge from the first and second trials initially only allowed one additional victim to testify on what Cosby did to her, but in the retrial, allowed five victims to testify after a lower court decided this was appropriate in order to establish a pattern of criminal behavior.
However, the Supreme Court felt that this was tantamount to character assassination—something defendants who are not rich are routinely subjected to, but is technically supposed to be against the rules.
Additionally, the court cited actions by prosecuting attorney Bruce Castor, who led the defense in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Castor reportedly promised not to charge Cosby in the sexual assault case in exchange for cooperation in another trial, but then used his statements in relation to that trial to later charge and have him arrested just days before the statute of limitations on the crime expired.
“In according with the advice [from] his attorneys, Cosby relied upon D.A. Castor’s public announcement that he would not be prosecuted,” the court opinion reads. “His reliance was reasonable, and it resulted in the deprivation of a fundamental constitutional right when he was compelled to furnished self-incriminating testimony.”
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. constitution protects people from being forced to give testimony that could lead to their own conviction.
Cosby has refused to admit any guilt or remorse for his crimes against so many women, even saying that he would rather serve the full 10 years in prison instead. He was recently denied parole because of his commitment to this denial.
It’s expected that Cosby will soon be released from prison at age 83. Advocates for sexual assault victims fear that this overturning of an iconic #MeToo case conviction will contribute yet further to the reluctance of these victims to come forward, especially in the case of celebrity men and especially when the victims are Black women.