PHOENIX - In a stunning reversal, Pennsylvania's highest court on June 30 threw out Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and released him from prison.
Cosby was the 1st celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era
Cosby was arrested in 2015, when a district attorney armed with newly unsealed evidence — the comic’s damaging deposition in a lawsuit brought by Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand — filed charges against him just days before a 12-year statute of limitations was about to run out.
The AP does not typically identify sexual assault victims without their permission, which Constand has granted.
At the time of his released, Cosby had served nearly three years of a three- to 10-year sentence for drugging and violating Constand in 2004.
In its ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby, though there was no evidence that agreement was ever put in writing.
Justice David Wecht, writing for a split court, said Cosby had relied on the previous district attorney’s decision not to charge him when the comedian gave his potentially incriminating testimony in Constand’s civil case. Four State Supreme Court justices formed the majority that ruled in Cosby’s favor, while three others dissented in whole or in part.
The court called Cosby’s subsequent arrest "an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was forgone for more than a decade." It said justice and "fair play and decency" require that the district attorney’s office stand by the decision of the previous DA.
The justices said that overturning the conviction and barring any further prosecution "is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system."
Legal expert analyzes ruling
"I think it was the appropriate decision. I do think it's very important, even in highly publicized cases, that our Constitution is followed," said Richard Klein, a former criminal trial attorney and a Professor of Law at Touro Law School.
Klein says the court's ruling does not impact alleged rape victims in future cases.
"This doesn't deal with not believing women," said Klein. It just deals with a situation where a prosecutor makes a promise to a defendant, and the prosecutor's office is bound to adhere to that promise."
Constand releases statement
After Cosby's conviction was overturned, Constand released a state that reads, in part:
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
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