The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the sexual assault conviction of comedian Bill Cosby due to an agreement made with a previous prosecutor that prevented him from being charged in the case.
Cosby, 83, was released from prison a short while after the decision was announced, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Update 6:31 p.m. EDT June 30: In a tweet, Cosby said he “never changed his stance” or his story, maintaining his innocence. Cosby thanked his fans, supporters and friends “who stood by me through this ordeal.”
Update 4:48 p.m. EDT June 30: Cosby did not speak to reporters outside his home in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; instead, he allowed his legal team to make brief comments before returning to his residence.
Original report: A judge sentenced Cosby to three to 10 years in state prison in 2018, following his conviction on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. A jury determined that Cosby drugged and molested Andrea Constand, who then worked as the director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
However, Justice David Wecht wrote Wednesday in the court’s majority opinion that prosecutors were obligated to stand by former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor’s decision not to pursue charges related to the incident. The previous decision was made to allow Cosby to testify in a civil suit filed by Constand.
“D.A. Castor induced Cosby’s forfeiture of his Fifth Amendment rights as a mechanism and a lever to aid Constand’s civil action and to improve the chances that she would receive at least a monetary benefit for the abuse that she suffered, given that D.A. Castor had determined that Constand would not, and could not, get relief in a criminal trial,” Wecht wrote.
“Through his deliberate efforts, D.A. Castor effectively forced Cosby to participate against himself in a civil case in a way that Cosby would not have been required to do had he retained his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination.”
The court said that overturning Cosby’s conviction and barring further prosecution “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”
“We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare, but it is warranted here, indeed compelled,” Wecht wrote.
In May, Cosby was denied parole after the Pennsylvania Parole Board said he failed to participate in and complete a program for sex offenders.
“Mr. Cosby has vehemently proclaimed his innocence and continues to deny all allegations made against him, as being false, without the sheer evidence of any proof,” Wyatt said at the time in an email to WCAU.
Cosby has maintained that he and Constand shared a consensual sexual encounter.
Dozens of women have made high-profile accusations that Cosby had drugged and assaulted them, but Constand’s case was the only one to result in criminal charges against the comedian.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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