Inside the Court’s ‘Severe And Rare’ Decision To Free Bill Cosby From Prison

The disgraced comedian spent three years behind bars after he was convicted of assault in 2018.

July 07, 2021
Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse on the first day of sentencing in his sexual assault trial on September 24, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania [via Mark Makela/Getty Images]

Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse on the first day of sentencing in his sexual assault trial on September 24, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania [via Mark Makela/Getty Images]

Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse on the first day of sentencing in his sexual assault trial on September 24, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania [via Mark Makela/Getty Images]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Bill Cosby went from serving up to 10 years in a Pennsylvania prison to a free man following a court decision that caught victims — and even the comedian — off-guard.

On June 30, judges on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced they were throwing out Cosby’s 2018 conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand 14 years earlier when she was employed at Philadelphia’s Temple University. She is one of over 50 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.

The court based the decision on then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor’s 2005 promise he would not criminally prosecute Cosby in exchange for agreeing to be deposed in a civil lawsuit Constand had filed against him. The two later settled the suit for over $3 million, according to The New York Times.

In the depositions, Cosby allegedly admitted he had given quaaludes to women in the past without their knowledge in order to have sex with them, the outlet reported. Castor’s successor in the D.A.’s office later reneged on the agreement not to prosecute and charge Cosby with Constand’s assault, using what Cosby had said under oath during trial. The Pennsylvania Supreme court ruled the reversal violated Cosby’s rights.

"Mr. Cosby was originally given a deal by Bruce Castor in which he was granted immunity. He gave up his fifth amendment rights in hopes that he would get back to work, back to life. And he always showed up for any legal matters and questions on his own accord,” Cosby’s attorneys said in a statement, insisting, “Charges should never have been brought against Mr. Cosby.”

The court agreed based on the technicality.

“He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred,” the judges wrote in their decision, according to CNN. “We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here, indeed compelled.”

Cosby attorney Jennifer Bonjean noted her client was “extremely happy” to be back home. “This has been a hard three years for his entire family,” she said.

Constand and her legal representatives also reacted to the news in a statement. “Today's majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action,” they wrote, according to CNN.

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