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Bill Cosby Granted Appeal in Sex Assault Case

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In a stunning decision that could test the legal framework of Me Too cases, Pennsylvania’s highest court will review the trial decision to let five other accusers testify at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial in 2018, which ended with his conviction.

Cosby, 82, has been imprisoned in suburban Philadelphia for nearly two years after a jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004. He’s serving a three- to 10-year sentence.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to review two aspects of the case, including the judge’s decision to let prosecutors call the other accusers to testify about long-ago encounters with the actor and comedian.

Cosby’s lawyers have long complained the testimony is remote and unreliable.

As it weighs the scope of the testimony allowed, the court will also consider whether the jury should have heard evidence that Cosby had given quaaludes to women in the past.

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Secondly, the court will examine Cosby’s argument that he had an agreement with a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in the case.

Cosby has said he relied on that agreement before agreeing to testify in the trial accuser’s lawsuit.

Those issues have been at the heart of the case since Cosby was charged in December 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.

Prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia had reopened the case that year after The Associated Press fought to unseal portions of Cosby’s decade-old deposition testimony in accuser Andrea Constand’s sex assault and defamation lawsuit against Cosby, which he had settled in 2006.

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Constand asked the appeals court on Tuesday to not allow “Cosby’s wealth, fame and fortune to win an escape from his maleficent, malignant and downright criminal past.”

Cosby, in the deposition testimony, acknowledged a string of extramarital relationships. He called them consensual, but many of the women say they were drugged and molested.

Dozens of women came forward to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct. Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill allowed just one of them to testify at Cosby’s first trial in 2017, which ended with an acquittal.

But a year later, after the Me Too movement exploded in Hollywood, the judge allowed five other accusers to testify at the retrial. The jury convicted Cosby on all three felony sex assault counts.

Lawyer Brian W. Perry argued in the appeal that letting other accusers testify in Me Too cases “flips constitutional jurisprudence on its head, and the ‘presumption of guilt,’ rather than the presumption of innocence, becomes the premise.”

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However, the judge said he found “striking similarities” in the women’s descriptions of their encounters with Cosby, and that the testimony was therefore permissible to show evidence of a “signature crime.”

Spokesman Andrew Wyatt on Tuesday said Cosby was “extremely thankful” the court would hear the case.

“As we have all stated, the false conviction of Bill Cosby is so much bigger than him — it’s about the destruction of ALL Black people and people of color in America,” Wyatt said in a statement.


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