On Monday, Bill Cosby escaped renewed legal peril when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear prosecutors’ appeal of a Pennsylvania judge’s decision last year to reverse the 84-year-old actor and comedian’s 2018 sexual assault conviction.
The justices upheld a split Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that Cosby should never have faced the charges since a prior local district attorney publicly committed not to prosecute him in 2005, rebuffing prosecutors’ appeal. After nearly three years, Cosby was released from state jail, angering sexual assault victims and their allies.
Cosby was sentenced to three to ten years in jail after pleading guilty to three charges of aggravated sexual assault in 2004 for drugging and abusing Andrea Constand, a former employee of his alma school Temple University.
He was the first celebrity to be convicted of sexual abuse after the #MeToo movement’s revelations of sexual misconduct among powerful men in Hollywood and beyond.
Cosby is most recognized for his portrayal as the cheerful husband and father in the 1980s television sitcom “The Cosby Show.” He was also a well-known stand-up comedian.
His reputation as a family man was shattered as over 50 women accused him of sexual assaults spanning nearly five decades. Constand’s allegations against Cosby were the only ones that were not too old to warrant criminal charges.
On appeal, his attorneys contended that Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele should not have charged Cosby in 2015 in the Constand case because Bruce Castor, the previous district attorney, had declined to bring criminal charges and announced his decision in a news statement.
Steele said Monday that appealing to the Supreme Court in an attempt to vacate the conviction was the correct course of action and expressed gratitude to Constand.
“All crime victims deserve to be heard, to be treated with dignity, and to have their day in court supported. I wish her the best in her future endeavors, “As Steele put it.
“While we are relieved to have this odyssey concluded,” Cosby’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean told Reuters, “it is unsurprising” that the Supreme Court refused the district attorney’s appeal, calling it “patently baseless.”
Due to his earlier unwillingness to prosecute, Cosby was compelled to testify in a civil case against him by Constand, resulting in a multimillion-dollar settlement. That testimony, in which Cosby admitted to providing sedatives to women, aided Steele’s prosecution of Cosby.
In June 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that the prosecution was fundamentally unjust because Cosby relied on Castor’s promise to his detriment, violating Cosby’s constitutional right to due process of law.
In his appeal to the United States Supreme Court, Steele argued that the state court’s “dangerous precedent” incorrectly turned a simple press release into effective immunity, paving the way for “thousands of other defendants to raise this issue and seek comparable windfalls.”
Cosby’s first trial resulted in a hung jury in 2017 when jurors could not agree on his guilt. He was convicted in a retrial after the judge permitted prosecutors to summon five prior accusers as witnesses – four more than in the first trial.
Prosecutors contended that Cosby’s assault on Constand was a well-rehearsed offense refined over decades: befriending younger women and serving as a mentor, only to assault them, frequently with the aid of drugs sexually.