The then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor had chosen not to prosecute the 83-year-old, "thereby allowing Cosby to be forced to testify in a subsequent civil action."
On Wednesday, Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He was ordered to be released from prison after the judge realized that a previous prosecutor should have prevented him from being charged in the case. "[Cosby] must be discharged [from prison], and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred," the court declared according to PEOPLE.
Cosby, once a beloved comedian who was dubbed 'America's Dad,' become the first Hollywood celebrity to be convicted of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo era. He was arrested in December 2015 and convicted in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near Philadelphia back in 2004. Accuser Andrea Constand had reported the assault in 2005 and the then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor had chosen not to prosecute the 83-year-old, "thereby allowing Cosby to be forced to testify in a subsequent civil action."
Pennsylvania's highest court on Wednesday overturned Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction and ordered that he be released from prison immediately. https://t.co/ZbN93GSLk9— Times LIVE (@TimesLIVE) July 1, 2021
"Unable to invoke any right not to testify in the civil proceedings, Cosby relied upon the district attorney’s declination and proceeded to provide four sworn depositions. During those depositions, Cosby made several incriminating statements," wrote Justice David Wecht along with Justices Debra Todd, Christine Donohue, and Sallie Updyke Mundy according to NBC News. So the comedian ended up incriminating himself in the deposition thinking he would not be charged. But later Castor's successor Kevin Steele used his testimony in the lawsuit during a criminal trial and arrested him just days before the statute of limitations expired.
Years later, the testimony became key in Cosby's conviction. "The fruits of Cosby’s reliance upon D.A. Castor’s decision — Cosby’s sworn inculpatory testimony — were then used by D.A. Castor’s successors against Cosby at Cosby’s criminal trial," continued Justice Wecht. "When an unconditional charging decision is made publicly and with the intent to induce action and reliance by the defendant, and when the defendant does so to his detriment (and in some instances upon the advice of counsel), denying the defendant the benefit of that decision is an affront to fundamental fairness," continued the high court's opinion. "For these reasons, Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged."
WATCH: Bill Cosby flashes peace sign while arriving home after being released from prison after Pennsylvania's Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction. https://t.co/Dpm23Qk671— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 1, 2021
Per CBS Philly, he was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for the felony sexual assault after he admitting in his testimony to have given the accuser Andrea Constand an unidentified pill that knocked her out that night. Although defending lawyers argued that the interaction was consensual, Cosby was quickly denounced after dozens of women accused him of a similar pattern of sexual assault over the years. Yesterday, after more than two years of serving in prison, Cosby was released from the SCI Phoenix detention center situated about 35 miles northeast of Philadelphia just before 2:30 p.m. Constand understandably was not pleased with the decision and she expressed the same in a joint statement with her attorneys.
Mr. Cosby was released from SCI Phoenix just before 2:30 p.m. https://t.co/9OrCeutiQP— PA Department of Corrections (@CorrectionsPA) June 30, 2021
"Today's majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action," read the statement according to NBC News. Even Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele decried the ruling. "He was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime," said Steele.
"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. My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assaults by victims," continued Steele's statement. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) condemned the Supreme court also condemned the decision. "We are deeply disappointed in today’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and by the message this decision sends to the brave survivors who came forward to seek justice for what Bill Cosby did to them. This is not justice," expressed RAINN President Scott Berkowitz.
"I just think it's a slap in the face for all the victims"— CNN (@CNN) June 30, 2021
News of Bill Cosby's release from prison shocked many across the US, especially his accusers. Here's what the women, along with their attorneys, had to say. https://t.co/PDP9XJ6Bx5
As for Cosby's spokesman Andrew Wyatt, he viewed Wednesday's ruling as a moment of justice for Black Americans. Thanking Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the legal team, Wyatt said, "This is the justice Mr. Cosby has been fighting for. They saw the light. He waived his Fifth Amendment right and settled out of court. He was given a deal and he had immunity. He should have never been charged." After being released from prison Cosby tweeted, "I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence. Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law."
This is horrible news. A real setback for all women who have been a victim of sexual assault.— laurie (@laurieoetken1) June 30, 2021
Cover image source: Getty | Photo by Michael Abbott