Bill Cosby, shown in the most recent picture taken in at the SCI Phoenix in Pennsylvania, will be released from prison on Wednesday
Bill Cosby will be released from prison today after Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction in a surprise decision, ruling that testimony from five women who weren’t involved in his trial but who spoke at it impeded his chances of a fair chance.
The Justices also ruled that a prior promise by Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor that he was not going to prosecute Cosby led him to make incriminating comments in a civil deposition, that prosecutors later used to make their case against him.
He is expected to be released from the SCI Phoenix in Skippack Township later today.
The decision on Wednesday has ‘sickened’ Cosby’s many accusers.
He was convicted of sexually assaulting one woman – Andrea Constand – but he was accused by many others of abuse. They made their claims in public discourse and civil lawsuits because they couldn’t be prosecuted – all but Andrea’s were outside of statute of limitations.
When Cosby, 83, was sentenced for his crimes against Constand, the other accusers seized it as their own justice too. The disgraced comedian always fought his conviction, despite admitting in a deposition that he used Quaaludes on women, without their knowledge, with the hope of later having sex with them.
He was sentenced to between three and ten years but he vowed to serve the full ten because anything less would have required him to express remorse.
In their 79-page ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices gave two reasons for overturning the conviction;
1) Testimony from five women who had nothing to do with the charges but who said he’d abused them on other occasions was unfair to Cosby and tainted the jury so they were more likely to find him guilty
2) A public remark by Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor that he was not going to prosecute Cosby led him to make incriminating comments in a civil deposition, that prosecutors later used to make their case against him
Now, lawyers from other trials may seize on the Cosby decision to undo their client’s convictions.
On Wednesday, one of his accusers, Victoria Valentino, told GMA: ‘I’m absolutely in shock…My stomach is lurching and I am deeply distressed about the injustice of the whole thing.’
One recent notable case where prosecutors used other witnesses to describe a pattern of behavior rather than testify about a specific crime was that of Harvey Weinstein.
He fought to exclude other women’s testimony from his trial.
Another is the actor Cuba Gooding Jr., who was charged for a handful of crimes after women allegedly involved in multiple other incidents testified to prosecutors.
The law allows the testimony only in limited cases, including to show a crime pattern so specific it serves to identify the perpetrator.
In Cosby’s case, one of his appellate lawyers said prosecutors put on vague evidence about the uncharged conduct, including Cosby´s own recollections in his deposition about giving women alcohol or Quaaludes before sexual encounters.
‘The presumption of innocence just didn´t exist for him,’ Jennifer Bonjean, the lawyer, argued to the court in December.
Prosecutors said Cosby repeatedly used his fame and ‘family man’ persona to manipulate young women, holding himself out as a mentor before betraying them.
Cosby, a groundbreaking Black actor who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, made a fortune estimated at $400 million during his 50 years in the entertainment industry. His trademark clean comedy and homespun wisdom fueled popular TV shows, books and standup acts.
He fell from favor in his later years as he lectured the Black community about family values, but was attempting a comeback when he was arrested.
‘There was a built-in level of trust because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he held himself out as a public moralist,’ Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, of suburban Montgomery County, argued to the justices.
Cosby had invited Constand to an estate he owns in Pennsylvania the night she said he drugged and sexually assaulted her.