Disgraced Comedian Bill Cosby has been released from prison.
Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and released him from prison Wednesday (local time) in a stunning reversal of fortune for the comedian once known as “America’s Dad”.
The court ruled that the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge Cosby.
Cosby, 83, flashed the V-for-victory sign to a helicopter overhead as he trudged into his suburban Philadelphia home after serving nearly three years of a three to 10-year sentence for drugging and violating Andrea Constand in 2004.
The former Cosby Show star — the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era — had no immediate comment.
Cosby was arrested in 2015, when a district attorney armed with newly unsealed evidence — the comic’s damaging deposition in a lawsuit filed by Constand — brought charges against him just days before the 12-year statute of limitations was about to run out.
But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Wednesday that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby, though there was no evidence that promise was ever put in writing.
Justice David Wecht, writing for a split court, said Cosby had relied on the previous district attorney’s decision not to charge him when the comedian gave his potentially incriminating testimony in Constand’s civil case.
The court called Cosby’s subsequent arrest “an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was forgone for more than a decade.” It said justice and “fair play and decency” require that the district attorney’s office stand by the decision of the previous DA.
The justices said that overturning the conviction, and barring any further prosecution, “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”
As Cosby was promptly set free from the state prison in suburban Montgomery County and driven home, his appeals lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said he should never have been prosecuted.
“District attorneys can’t change it up simply because of their political motivation,” she said, adding that Cosby remains in excellent health, apart from being legally blind.
More to come.
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