Bill Cosby on Wednesday evening thanked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for their shock decision to free him, only three years into his 10 year sentence for sexual assault.
Cosby, 83, flashed a peace sign to news crews on Wednesday as he arrived home after being released from prison in Pennsylvania, hours after the court overturned his sexual assault conviction.
He was freed on the grounds that a former prosecutor promised him that he wouldn’t be charged in 2005 and lulled him into incriminating himself.
The decision to free the disgraced comedian once known as America’s Dad has ‘shocked and disgusted’ his accusers.
Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahman described the ruling as ‘mind-blowing’, adding: ‘This is extremely rare. This is unprecedented.’ Former Congresswoman Katie Hill tweeted: ‘On today’s episode of How the Justice System Fails Victims: Bill Cosby is released on a technicality.’
Cosby himself called in to local Philadelphia radio station WDAS-FM, where he said the audience needed ‘clarity, they need guidance.’
‘Because this is not just a black thing,’ Cosby said.
‘This is for all the people who have been imprisoned wrongfully regardless of race, color, or creed. Because I met them in there. People who talked about what happened and what they did. And I know there are many liars out there.’
Cosby was jailed in 2018 for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, who had reported her claims to the police in 2005.
The murky legal explanation for why Cosby was released hinges on a statement made in 2005 by former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, who decided not to charge Cosby because he thought there wasn’t enough corroborating evidence to back up Constand’s claims.
Instead, he thought she’d get a better chance at ‘seeking justice’ in a civil lawsuit so he dropped the criminal case. It meant that Cosby had to give evidence in the civil lawsuit – he wasn’t allowed to invoke his fifth amendment right – and as a result, he made a comment about how he used Quaaludes to get women to have sex with him.
Ten years later, eight years after Castor had left office, a different prosecutor charged Cosby, using the deposition remarks as evidence. By then, dozens more women had come forward publicly to accuse him of sexual assault but none of their claims could be prosecuted because they fell outside Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. Some of them were allowed to testify at Cosby’s trial – which he said was unfair and tainted the jury.
Cosby maintains that Castor gave him an ‘immunity deal’ and that that’s the only reason he gave the remarks in the deposition.
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with him.
They said Castor robbed him of his fifth amendment right to not speak during the deposition, and lead him to incriminate himself deliberately in a ‘coercive bait and switch’ so that Constand would get a better settlement payout.
‘The moment that Cosby was charged criminally, he was harmed: all that he had forfeited earlier, and the consequences of that forfeiture in the civil case, were for naught. This was an unconstitutional ‘coercive bait-and-switch,” they wrote.
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Bill Cosby outside his home in Pennsylvania on Wednesday after being released from prison. He did not speak but nodded and smiled as his legal team celebrated the decision
Cosby with his legal team standing outside his mansion in Pennsylvania on Wednesday
Bill Cosby, 83, flashes a peace sign at news crews as he arrives home on Wednesday after having his sexual assault conviction overturned by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court in a shock decision, two years into his 10 year sentence
Bill Cosby, in this white vehicle, is released from SCI Phoenix in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. The Supreme Court filed a 79-page ruling granting his release and banning him from future prosecution
This is how Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court voted to free Cosby or keep him jailed. Justice David Wecht (top left) wrote the decision and the court’s three female justices, Debra Todd (bottom right), Christine Donohue (second top left) and Sallie Updyke Mundy (top right) agreed with him. Justices Max Baer (bottom left), Thomas G. Saylor (bottom middle) and Kevin M. Dougherty (top, second from right) dissented
THE INFORMAL ‘DEAL’ THAT SET COSBY FREE
Former Montgomery County DA Bruce Castor
The Supreme Court did not rule on whether or not the testimony of five women who were ‘bad act’ witnesses contributed to Cosby’s fate, or whether or not their testimony was fair. Instead, they looked only at the comment made by Montgomery County Prosecutor Bruce Castor, and found that it was the reason Cosby should go free.
In 2005, Cosby had been reported to Castor’s office by the police in Pennsylvania after Andrea Constand reported the alleged assault.
It became public knowledge.
After pursuing an investigation, Castor’s office released a press release saying he would not be charging Cosby because of a lack of evidence.
That press release is the ‘deal’ Cosby thinks he made. There was no formal definition in it about how long it would last or if future prosecutors were bound by it.
This is part of the release:
‘Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor, Jr. has announced that a joint investigation… into allegations against actor and comic Bill Cosby is concluded.
This is the 2005 release by Castor’s office which Cosby thought was an ‘immunity deal’
‘The detectives could find no instance in Mr. Cosby’s past where anyone complained to law enforcement of conduct, which would constitute a criminal offense.
‘After reviewing the above and consulting with County and Cheltenham detectives, the District Attorney finds insufficient, credible, and admissible evidence exists upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt.
‘In making this finding, the District Attorney has analyzed the facts in relation to the elements of any applicable offenses, including whether Mr. Cosby possessed the requisite criminal intent.
‘After this analysis, the District Attorney concludes that a conviction under the circumstances of this case would be unattainable.
‘As such, District Attorney Castor declines to authorize the filing of criminal charges in connection with this matter. Because a civil action with a much lower standard for proof is possible, the District Attorney renders no opinion concerning the credibility of any party involved so as to not contribute to the publicity and taint prospective jurors.
‘The District Attorney does not intend to expound publicly on the details of his decision for fear that his opinions and analysis might be given undue weight by jurors in any contemplated civil action. District Attorney Castor cautions all parties to this matter that he will reconsider this decision should the need arise.
‘Much exists in this investigation that could be used (by others) to portray persons on both sides of the issue in a less than flattering light. The District Attorney encourages the parties to resolve their dispute from this point forward with a minimum of rhetoric.
‘After reviewing the above and consulting with County and Cheltenham detectives, the District Attorney finds insufficient, credible, and admissible evidence exists upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt.’
In emails years later, Castor said that he made the deal with Cosby to get Constand a settlement.
In one, which is included in the Supreme Court decision, he says: ‘The attached is the written determination that we would not prosecute Cosby. That was what the lawyers for [Constand] wanted and I agreed.
‘The reason I agreed and the plaintiff’s lawyers wanted it in writing is so that Cosby could not take the 5th Amendment to avoid being deposed or testifying. A sound strategy to employ.’
The Supreme Court ruled that the prosecutor – far from trying to let Cosby off the hook – performed a legal ‘bait and switch’ and lulled him into making incriminating statements.
‘The moment that Cosby was charged criminally, he was harmed: all that he had forfeited earlier, and the consequences of that forfeiture in the civil case, were for naught. This was, as the CDO itself characterizes it, an unconstitutional ‘coercive bait-and-switch’.
In his decision, Justice David Wecht said that the only remedy was to free Cosby and to stop him from ever being prosecuted again.
‘He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred,’ Wecht wrote.
Three other justices agreed and three dissented, tipping the scales in Cosby’s favor by one vote.
‘All three women on the court agreed that Cosby should be freed. The three who dissented are all men.
Over the next ten years, multiple women come forward in the press and civil lawsuits to accuse him but it wasn’t until 2015 that he was charged.
He was charged two weeks before the statute of limitations would have rendered Constand’s claims expired.
All of the other claims are too old to be prosecuted.
In 2018, he was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to between three and ten years behind bars.
Constand testified at his trial along with five others who spoke about their own allegations against him.
Those women were Chelan Lasha, Janice Baker Kinney, Janice Dickinson, Lise-Lotte Lublin and Heidi Thomas.
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.
Now, lawyers from other trials may seize on the Cosby decision to undo their client’s convictions.
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 Supreme Court stayed away from the issue in its ruling.
Justice Wecht wrote: ‘As we discuss in more detail below, at Cosby’s trial, the trial court permitted the Commonwealth to call five witnesses who testified that Cosby had engaged in similar sexually abusive patterns with each of them.
‘We granted allowance of appeal here as well to consider the admissibility of that prior bad act evidence.
‘However, because our decision on the Castor declination issue disposes of this appeal, we do not address the claim.’
At the end of the decision, he wrote: ‘Accordingly, we do not address Cosby’s other issue.’
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.
Cosby’s wife Camille always stood by him, insisting he was innocent.
In her most recent interview, after the state Supreme Court agreed to hear his appeal, she said: ‘My first reaction is hopefulness, possibilities.
‘The state’s highest court has said: ‘Wait a minute. There are some problems here. They can be considered for an appeal.’
‘I’m very, very pleased.’
His accusers said they were ‘shocked’ and ‘disgusted’ by the decision.
Constand released a joint statement with her attorneys on Wednesday, asserting that she was never privy to any kind of prosecutorial deal with Cosby in 2005.
‘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,’ the statement said.
Lisa Bloom, who represents three of his victims, tweeted that they were ‘disgusted’ by the decision – which amounts to a legal technicality rather than him being innocent.
Andrea Constand is the woman Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting at his Pennsylvania home in 2008. Her allegations against Cosby were the only ones that could be prosecuted because they were just inside of the state’s statute of limitations. She has not reacted to his release
‘I’m absolutely in shock…My stomach is lurching and I am deeply distressed about the injustice of the whole thing,’ Victoria Valentino said.
‘A kick in the gut’: Bill Cosby’s disgusted accusers speak out as he walks free from prison after sexual assault conviction is overturned
THE 5 WHO TESTIFIED AGAINST COSBY AT TRIAL ABOUT OTHER ‘INCIDENTS’
Lasha testified about 1986 incident with Cosby when she was 17.
She said he’d invited her to his room at the Las Vegas Hilton and told her he’d help her with her career.
Janice Baker Kinney
Testified about a 1982 incident with Cosby in Reno.
She said she was given pills, they played backgammon and she passed out then woke up the next day undressed, next to Cosby in bed
Dickinson testified that Cosby assaulted her in 1982 in Lake Tahoe.
She said: ‘His robe opened…he smelled like cigar and espresso and his body odor. Here was America’s Dad on top of me. A happily married man with five children, on top of me.’
She was 27 at the time.
She testified that Cosby gave her two drinks in his hotel room in Las Vegas in 1989. She said she remembers him stroking her hair but then she passed out.
Thomas testified that she met Cosby in 1984 and that after taking one sip of wine he’d given her, she passed out.
She said she woke up in his bed in a hotel room in Reno and that she was drowsy for days afterwards.
At least 60 women have testified against Cosby in total either in civil lawsuits or interviews
Bill Cosby’s ‘disgusted’ accusers have described his release as a ‘kick in the gut’ as he walked free from prison Wednesday, just hours after his sexual assault conviction was overturned in a stunning ruling.
The disgraced comedian, once known as ‘America’s dad’, left state prison in suburban Montgomery County after serving less than three years of a three to 10 year sentence for drugging and sexually assaulting Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand at his home in Pennsylvania in 2004.
His release came after Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out his conviction, ruling that the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s promise not to prosecute him.
Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor had promised Cosby he wouldn’t be charged when Costand reported the assault to police in 2005.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court judges on Wednesday said this promise led the comedian to incriminate himself in a damning deposition where he confessed to drugging women with Quaaludes to get them to have sex with him.
This deposition was then used by the new Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele to bring charges against him in 2015.
In the ruling, the judges said Cosby was robbed of his fifth amendment right not to incriminate himself when he was deposed, and so had to be freed and cannot face prosecution on the charges again.
The shock overturning of his sentence comes as a major blow to the #MeToo movement and the at least 60 women who came forward to accuse the comedian of assault, with many of them speaking out Wednesday to condemn the ruling.
The attorney for three of the 83-year-old’s alleged victims including model Janice Dickinson released a statement on Twitter saying they were ‘disgusted’ by the decision.
‘The 3 Bill Cosby accusers I represent and I are disgusted that he is a free man today. He is not released because he is innocent. He is released because a prosecutor promised him years ago that he would not be brought to justice, without even making a deal for him to do time,’ said Lisa Bloom.
Bloom commended Dickinson’s ‘brave decision’ as one of five women who testified against Cosby at his 2018 trial as part of the prosecution’s efforts to show a pattern of behavior.
‘I will never forget my client Janice Dickinson’s brave decision to testify as a ‘prior bad acts’ witness in Cosby’s 2018 criminal trial.
‘She knew this could be used against her in her civil case. We decided we didn’t care. Getting him criminally convicted was essential.
‘We prepared her for the ugly cross-examination that would come. We flew across the country, waited day after day for her turn,’ she wrote.
‘I watched the other ‘prior bad acts’ witnesses testify magnificently. Then Janice’s turn. She slayed. I was so proud of her and all the others.’
Dickinson testified that he assaulted her in 1982 in Lake Tahoe when she was a 27-year-old model.
She continued: ‘And of course, the victim in the case, Andrea Constand, so dignified, so strong, answering every demeaning question. The conviction.’
‘We couldn’t believe it: justice, a tiny bit, finally. And now this. A kick in the gut to victims and their advocates.’
Bloom slammed the ruling as evidence that the ‘system still massively favors the rich and powerful’ and urged other victims to come forward.
‘Every day I fight for sexual assault victims and have to advise them of the ugly truth: the system still massively favors the rich and powerful. You need a superhuman level of strength and courage,’ she wrote.
‘Luckily many victims have it. Any other Cosby victims, time to come forward!’
Accuser Victoria Valentino told DailyMail.com she could ‘hardly find words’ to describe what she was feeling after hearing the news.
‘I just heard and my stomach lurched. I’m so upset I can hardly find words,’ she said.
‘We had just gotten news that his parole had been denied and so we felt safe and now everything is upside down.’
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