Bill Cosby is released from prison after his sexual abuse conviction is overturned
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (USA) has annulled this Wednesday the conviction for sexual abuse against the comedian Bill Cosby, an icon of American popular culture and who until now was imprisoned in a state prison near Philadelphia. Cosby had been deprived of liberty for two years and had said that he intended to serve the full ten-year prison sentence imposed by a judge in 2018 for sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.
"Cosby's convictions and sentencing ruling are set aside and he is released," the court has written in a 79-page sentence. A few hours later, the Pennsylvania state authorities confirmed his release from jail.
The artist was the first famous person to be prosecuted in the era of the Me Too movement, which seeks to make visible the harassment and inequality of women.
Cosby was arrested in 2015 on charges of drugging and sexually abusing a woman, Andrea Constand, at her home outside of Philadelphia in 2004. At the conclusion of the trial in April 2018, Cosby was found guilty of three different counts of sexual abuse. A first court of appeal confirmed that conviction. Now, however, the Pennsylvania State Supreme considers that the trial did not have all the necessary guarantees.
Although more than 60 women said they were victims of sexual assault by Cosby, the actor was criminally prosecuted for Constand's assault alone, as the other cases had prescribed.
Cosby's defense filed the second appeal against his conviction in August of last year. His lawyers argued that five women should not have been able to testify at trial as witnesses. The lawyers said that those testimonies, which denounced events that occurred "decades" ago and were not part of the case, had influenced the jury.
The attorneys also argued that it was "unfair" that Cosby's testimony in a 2005 civil case involving the use of sedative drugs and sexual behaviors in the 1970s was heard during the trial. The actor had testified in that civil case after the then attorney general, Bruce Castor, guaranteed him that he would not use his words criminally. It was then that the actor admitted that he supplied drugs to women with whom he wanted to have relationships.
Ten years later, when the case was about to expire, Castor's successors reopened it, and that 2005 testimony was crucial to the conviction. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has now considered that the trial was not fair and has decided to release Cosby.
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"He should be released and any future prosecution for these particular charges should be prohibited," three judges argued on Wednesday. "We do not dispute that this solution is serious and infrequent. But in this case it is justified, in fact it is mandatory," they added. A dozen women claiming to be Cosby victims have filed civil lawsuits against the actor seeking compensation for damages.