Bill Cosby freed from prison after court overturns sex assault conviction

After a Pennsylvania court reversed his conviction for sexual assault, Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday. This is a remarkable reversal in a case which marked the first celebrity trial following the #MeToo movement.After being found guilty in 2004 of drugging and attacking Andrea Constand, Temple University's sports administrator, at his suburban Philadelphia residence, the comedian aged 83 served almost three years of a three to 10-year sentence.The 79-page opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that Cosby and former Montgomery County Dist. had reached a "non prosecution agreement". Atty. Bruce Castor said that the actor should not have been changed in this case. All future prosecutions were barred by the judges.Castor was concerned about the outcome of the Cosby case if the actor didn't confess to the charges in 2005 after learning about them. Castor agreed to not prosecute him at that time so that he could testify in a civil action and invoke his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The promise was never made in writing.Cosby made several statements that could be used against him in the civil case. These statements were later used by Castor's successor in his criminal trial. This was after many women from across the country came forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault.Justice David Wecht stated in the majority opinion that "when a prosecutor makes a unconditional promise of not-prosecution and the defendant relies on that guarantee to detriment to his constitutional right to not testify, then the principle of fundamental fairness which undergirds due procedure of law in our penal justice system requires that the promise is enforced."This court ruling reversed the first serious criminal conviction in the #MeToo era. It comes after a judge decided to extradite Harvey Weinstein from Hollywood to face trial in California for sexual assault charges against five women in Los Angeles.Continue the storyThe Weinstein and Cosby trials ignited a national discussion about the sexual misconduct perpetrated by powerful, wealthy men. His accusers and leaders in the #MeToo movement have expressed outrage at Cosby's acquittal.Amber Tamblyn, actor and founder of Times Up, an advocacy organization for victims of sexual abuse, stated in a tweet that she was furious to hear the news. I know of women whom this man has drugged and raped unconscious. Shame on the court for this decision.Montgomery County Dist. Montgomery County Dist. Kevin Steele stated that Cosby was freed on a procedural matter that was not relevant to the facts of the crime.John Manly, an attorney from Southern California who has represented many victims of sexual assault, believes the court's decision to dismiss him is "a big step backward." He is concerned that this case might discourage survivors of sexual assault from speaking out.He stated that the Cosby decision once again showed there were two systems to justice: one for the powerful and one for the rest. "The message is that we can't keep the powerful in jail."Legal experts believe that the court's decision, despite the chilling effect it could have on the public, was based upon an unusual technicality and won't have any wider legal implications.Jane Manning, an ex-prosecutor for New York sex crime and director of Women's Equal Justice Project, said that while this decision is devastating emotionally, it doesn't negate the fact that these women joined together to hold accountable a very powerful and important man and show others what can be achieved." "Bill Cosby, a serial predator, believed he couldn't be caught. These women proved that even people who think they are untouchable, by working together, anyone can be brought to justice.Gloria Allred, an attorney representing more than twenty-six women who were accused by Cosby said that the case was a crucial fight for justice.She said that even though the court overturned the conviction for technical reasons, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby and should not be taken as a statement of a finding that Cosby did not commit the acts of which they were accused.Jennifer Bonjean, Cosby's appeals lawyer, stated that Cosby "should not have been prosecuted" for the offenses."District attorneys cannot change it simply because they are motivated by political reasons," she stated, noting that Cosby is in good health and legally blind.Cosby sat outside his Elkins Park house smiling, as his lawyers led him inside. Cosby ignored questions from reporters and displayed a peace sign.Although he hasn't yet made any public statements about the matter, his supporters are loudly celebrating the court's decision."FINALLY!!!! "FINALLY!!!! Phylicia Rashad, a co-star on the Cosby Show, tweeted.A news conference is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon by the comedian.Lisa Bloom, an attorney representing some of Cosby’s accusers, stated Wednesday that he was not released "because he is innocent." He is freed because a prosecutor promised him years back that he would not face justice without making any kind of deal for him to do so.The majority of judges ruled in Cosby’s favor with four, and three others dissented either in whole or part.Peter Goldberger, a Philadelphia-based lawyer who specializes in criminal appeals, stated that prosecutors could request reconsideration from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but it would not be possible.Goldberger stated that it is impossible to imagine that a long opinion with a thoughtful concurring and dissenting opinion could be a shorthand for a simple error that would make them change their mind.Although Cosby was only charged with assaulting Constand, the trial judge allowed five additional accusers to testify that Cosby had also victimized them in the 1980s. To establish a pattern of criminal conduct on Cosby's behalf, the prosecution called them as witnesses.Cosby's lawyers argued that the addition of five accusers was inappropriate.The Pennsylvania high court didn't weigh in on the matter, stating that it was moot because of its conclusion that Cosby shouldn't have been prosecuted.New York's Harvey Weinstein trial was presided over by a judge. This case was the one that sparked the rise of #MeToo in 2017. Four other accusers were also present. Weinstein was sentenced to 23-years in prison after he was convicted. He now faces separate charges in California.Cosby was denied parole in May after refusing to take part in sex-offender programs for nearly three years while he was in state prison. Cosby has always maintained that he would not accept treatment programs or admit to wrongdoing, even if it meant a 10-year sentence.Prosecutors claimed that Cosby used his family's fame and man image to manipulate young women. He also offered himself as a mentor, before betraying them.Cosby was a pioneering Black actor, who grew up in Philadelphia's public housing. He earned an estimated $400 million in his 50-year career in entertainment, which included The Cosby Show, Fat Albert and I Spy.Cosby was questioned under oath and admitted that he used quaaludes to women who he wanted to have sexual relations with. Constand eventually paid Cosby $3.4 million.Eventually, portions of the deposition were made public by the Associated Press. This opened the floodgates to accusations from other women. More than 60 women came forward to claim that Cosby had violated their rights.Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press reporter, contributed to this report.This story first appeared in Los Angeles Times.