Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction on Wednesday after finding an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented him from being charged in the case.
Cosby has served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia. He had vowed to serve all 10 years rather than acknowledge any remorse over the 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand.
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.
Cosby was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era, so the reversal could make prosecutors wary of calling other accusers in similar cases. The law on prior bad act testimony varies by state, though, and the ruling only holds sway in Pennsylvania.
The news is likely to be greeted with shock and anger for many Americans and in Hollywood where Cosby’s fall from grace had become symbolic of how even the powerful could now be held account for sexual crimes and harassment.
In May, Cosby was denied parole after refusing to participate in sex offender programs during his nearly three years in state prison. He has long said he would resist the treatment programs and refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even if it means serving the full 10-year sentence.
Cosby, a groundbreaking Black actor who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, made a fortune estimated at $400m during his 50 years in the entertainment industry. His trademark clean comedy and homespun wisdom fueled popular TV shows, books and his standup act.
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.
Credit: The Guardian