Why did Bill Cosby get released? What has he said about his conviction being overturned?
1 July 2021, 12:13
Bill Cosby was released from prison following a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The actor's sexual assault conviction was overturned. But, why?
Bill Cosby was freed after nearly three years in prison, following a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday (Jun 30).
The court decided to overturn his 2018 conviction on three charges of aggravated indecent assault.
The 83-year-old comedian and actor maintained his innocence in his long-standing case, which stems from an accusation that he drugged and had sex with a Temple University employee in 2004.
Mr Cosby is best known for starring in the 1980s TV series The Cosby Show and was once known as "America's Dad".
But why was he released from prison? What has he said since his release? and what was he initially convicted of?
What was Bill Cosby convicted of?
Mr Cosby served more than two years of a three to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia.
In 2018, the actor was found guilty of drugging and molesting ex-basketball player Andrea Constand.
Mr Cosby was found guilty on three counts of felony indecent assault against Ms Constand.
Ms Constrand, who is decades his junior, met Cosby in 2002 when working at Temple University in Philadelphia and described the him as a mentor figure.
In court, Constrand testified at trial, saying how she became "frozen" after Cosby drugged and molested her at his home in 2004.
In 2005, Ms Constand came forward to police about the assault for the first time, but former state prosecutor Bruce Castor did not press criminal charges.
Ms Constrand then sued Cosby for sexual battery and defamation/ They reached a settlement with a confidential agreement in 2006.
In 2014 and 2015, dozens of women came forward with similar accounts of drugging and assault by Mr Cosby.
Local authorities knew that statute of limitation rules meant they could not pursue the majority of these accusations, however, they reopened Ms Constrand's case.
Mr Cosby was charged just days before the 12-year limit on her allegations was set to expire.
In 2017, a judge declared a mistrial in his first trial after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
The testimony of other accusers was then allowed during a second trial, which helped prosecutors put forward the case of predatory behaviour by Mr Cosby.
Why was Bill Cosby released from prison?
On Wednesday (Jun 30) Bill Cosby was freed from prison due to an agreement Mr Cosby struck with a district attorney, Bruce Castor, in 2005.
Mr Castor declined to prosecute Mr Cosby in exchange for the comedian’s testimony during a civil trial.
The 83-year-old comedian and actor served more than two years of a three to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia.
During the court proceeding, The Pennsylvania justices ruled that the agreement prevented prosecution for the claims brought by Ms Constrand.
The court also noted that the prosecutorial discretion of Pennsylvania’s district attorneys was not “free of the constraints of due process”.
Mr Cosby “must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred,” they wrote.
“We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here, indeed compelled.”
The current district attorney of the jurisdiction in Montgomery County, where the trail took place, spoke to ABC News.
In a statement he said that Mr Cosby “was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime".
According to the documents and testimony, Mr Castor agreed to not prosecute Mr Cosby after deciding that there was not enough evidence to go further with prosecution.
He also had hoped that Mr Cosby would testify at a civil trial without the benefit of Fifth Amendment protections.
Mr Cosby made incriminating statements that led to his subsequent conviction when the criminal case was reopened years later.
However, the Supreme Court’s justices ruled that it didn’t matter because of the 2005 decision by Mr Castor chose not to prosecute.
What has Bill Cosby said since his release?
On the. day he was released Wednesday (Jun 30) Mr Cosby shared a statement on social media.
“Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal."
I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence.— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) June 30, 2021
Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law. #BillCosby pic.twitter.com/bxELvJWDe5
"I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law.”
The statement came alongside a photo of Mr Cosby punching the air.