Comedian and actor Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction was overturned on Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, opening the door for his release from prison.
Cosby, 83, “had been found guilty of drugging and molesting ex-basketball player Andrea Constand in 2004,” according to the BBC. He has been in state prison for more than two years of an up to 10-year sentence.
“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,” the high court ruled, according to NBC News.
“For these reasons, Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged,” the court added.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is in receipt of today’s court decision. Work is underway to complete the necessary paperwork, and Mr. Cosby will be released as soon as practical,” Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman Maria Bivens said in a statement to CNN.
According to the report, the majority opinion said, “Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated and he is discharged.”
The Associated Press reported, “He was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era.”
It added, “But 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. There was no evidence that promise was ever put in writing.”
The New York Times tweeted, “Bill Cosby’s case was one of the first high-profile sexual assault trials to unfold in the aftermath of #MeToo, and many considered his conviction a sign that going forward, women’s experiences could be afforded greater weight and credibility by jurors.”
Bill Cosby’s case was one of the first high-profile sexual assault trials to unfold in the aftermath of #MeToo, and many considered his conviction a sign that going forward, women’s experiences could be afforded greater weight and credibility by jurors. https://t.co/UyDpqZEeWm pic.twitter.com/BnXloYMpES
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 30, 2021
“The View” co-host Sunny Hostin said, “I am certainly concerned that this may have a chilling effect on victims and survivors of sexual assault coming forward.”
“I am certainly concerned that this may have a chilling effect on victims and survivors of sexual assault coming forward.” @sunny weighs in on Bill Cosby’s conviction being overturned and him leaving prison. https://t.co/yuM413mOS1 pic.twitter.com/YovNjj2Hb2
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 30, 2021
Many social media users were appalled at the decision. According to USA Today, 60 women have come forward to make accusations against Cosby.
Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction is overturned, he’s going to walk right out of prison. All of those strong, brave women who came forward and spoke their truth, what about them!!!!
— Amy Lynn🧦 (@AmyAThatcher) June 30, 2021
Bill Cosby’s release reflects a corrupt, unjust “justice” system and a very long history of ignoring and vilifying victims of sexual assault.
Anyone who’s experienced the legal system after abuse can tell you about the protection abusers receive, especially the rich & powerful.
— Savvy☭ (@sleepisocialist) June 30, 2021
To the victims of Allison Mack and Bill Cosby,
I’m so sorry the justice system failed you today.
— Meredith Lee (@meralee727) June 30, 2021
The widely known entertainer was best known for his role as Dr. Huxtable in the hit 1980s television series “The Cosby Show.”
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