Comedian Bill Cosby has been released from prison following the overturning of his conviction for sexual assault by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He has served almost three years after being convicted in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. There have been numerous other allegations of sexual assault leveled against Cosby dating back decades.
The decision by the court is based on a legal technicality, according to NBC News, which is that a prosecutor initially did not charge Cosby, which then prompted him to give considerable testimony that then served to incriminate him when the next prosecutor did charge him. The ruling states: “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, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was foregone for more than a decade. For these reasons, Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged.”
Cosby’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt heralded this as a victory, declaring “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.” His longtime TV costar Phylicia Rashad, who played his onscreen wife on The Cosby Show and Cosby, tweeted her support, writing “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
Many reactions were not positive. Some of Cosby’s victims have spoken out about what they see as devastating news. Janice Baker Kinney said to ABC News that “I’m shocked, and my stomach’s kind of in a knot over this. Just one little legalese can overturn this when so many people came forward, so many women have told their truths.” Victoria Valentino echoed her sentiments, adding that “My stomach is lurching and I am deeply distressed about the injustice of the whole thing. He’s a sociopath. He’s a serial rapist. This is a man who has no conscience. He has no sense of remorse.” Celebrities including Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen Barkin, Debra Messing, and Amber Tamblyn shared their solidarity with survivors.
The Montgomery County District Attorney, Kevin Steele, expressed concern about the implications of this decision: “He was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime. 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. Prosecutors in my office will continue to follow the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads. We still believe that no one is above the law — including those who are rich, famous and powerful.”