Convicted of sexual assault, comedian Bill Cosby was released from prison that night, just after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the judgment, a decision that represents a snub to the #MeToo movement. “Bill Cosby’s convictions and sentences are overturned and he must be released,” the state’s high court wrote at the end of a 79-page long ruling on the comedian.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m. (6.30 p.m. GMT), the 83-year-old creator of “The Cosby Show” left SCI Phoenix, an establishment located in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, where he had been detained since his conviction in September 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a woman he invited to his home in 2004.
William Henry Cosby, Jr, by his full name, had been sentenced to a minimum of three years’ imprisonment (10 years at the most), which is almost the same length of time he has previously spent in custody.
In its decision, the Supreme Court recalls that the first prosecutor in charge of the case had decided not to prosecute him in criminal proceedings, while encouraging him to testify in civil proceedings brought by the complainant. However, this testimony was then held against him during his trial, when a new prosecutor decided to relaunch the case years later, note the magistrates, who rendered a technical decision and not on the merits of the case.
“When a prosecutor makes a public decision with the intention of influencing the actions of the accused and the latter does so to his detriment (and sometimes on the advice of his lawyer), denying him the benefit of this decision is an affront to the fundamental principle of fairness, ”they say.
Bill Cosby’s conviction was seen as the first of the #MeToo era and a victory in the fight against sexual violence against women.
Considered the embodiment of the ideal father in his television show, the actor, one of the first African Americans to break into the small screen, has been accused by some sixty women of sexual assault and sometimes rape, covered by prescription. “I hope this decision will not dissuade victims from reporting sexual assault,” said prosecutor Kevin Steele, at the origin of the prosecution, in a statement. “We always believe that no one is above the law, including those who are rich, famous and powerful.”
Dozens of women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them, prescribed facts in all cases except the Constand case, the only one that has led to prosecution. The sexual assault of Andrea Constand itself escaped the statute of limitations for a few days, when prosecutor Kevin Steele decided to prosecute. Asked by AFP, prosecutor Steele did not follow up.
“He is not released because he is innocent,” reacted on Twitter, lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents three women who accuse Bill Cosby of having assaulted them, who are “disgusted” by the news. For the lawyer, the former humorist will be released from prison “because a prosecutor promised him years ago that he would not be prosecuted”.
Asked during her daily press briefing, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Joe Biden had no “direct response” to this court decision, while specifying that “the president is, for a long time, a supporter of the fight against violence against women “.
“Bill Cosby remains an evil rapist,” reacted on Twitter, Rosanna Arquette, who accused former producer Harvey Weinstein of having sexually harassed him..