Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction was overturned by Pennsylvania's highest court on Wednesday, after finding that an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented him from being charged in the case.
Cosby, 83, has been locked up for more than two years of a 3-10 year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia, according to AP. When convicted, he had vowed to serve all 10 years rather than admit remorse over a 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand, who he invited to an estate he owns in Pennsylvania, then drugged and sexually assaulted her.
The former comic and actor has been accused of rape, drugging women, sexual battery, child sexual abuse and sexual misconduct dating back to the mid-1960s.
He was charged in late 2015, when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence — Cosby’s damaging deposition from her lawsuit — arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.
The trial judge had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby’s first trial, when the jury deadlocked. However, he then allowed five other accusers to testify at the retrial about their experiences with Cosby in the 1980s.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that testimony tainted the trial, even though a lower appeals court had found it appropriate to show a signature pattern of drugging and molesting women. -AP
So - because five additional women were allowed to testify to Cosby's pattern of sexual predation, the trial was deemed 'tainted' due to an agreement with prosecutor Bruce Castor (who later represented Donald Trump at impeachment).
Cosby was denied parole in May after refusing to participate in sex offender programs while in state prison - and has long said he would never go to them, while continuing to acknowledge wrongdoing. Cosby's spokesperson Andrew Wyatt called the decision "appalling."
Cosby, a groundbreaking Black actor who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, made a fortune estimated at $400 million during his 50 years in the entertainment industry. His trademark clean comedy and homespun wisdom fueled popular TV shows, books and standup acts.
He fell from favor in his later years as he lectured the Black community about family values, but was attempting a comeback when he was arrested.
“There was a built-in level of trust because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he held himself out as a public moralist,” Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, of suburban Montgomery County, argued to the justices. -AP
Prosecutors did not say whether they would appeal or attempt to try Cosby for a third time.