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US

Woman in Cosby extortion case released from prison

Appeals court overturns conviction

June 10, 1999
Web posted at: 6:16 p.m. EDT (2216 GMT)

DUBLIN, California (CNN) -- Autumn Jackson, the 24-year-old woman convicted in 1997 of trying to extort $40 million from entertainer Bill Cosby, was released from prison Thursday afternoon, one day after her conviction was overturned.

"She is very relieved to be out," said Edward Zas, the attorney who argued her appeal.

Jackson's husband, Antonay Williams, greeted her with their twin sons, Trevor and Tray, who were born while Jackson was incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, near San Francisco. The boys will celebrate their first birthday June 17.

"She has never been with her children outside prison," said Jackson's other attorney, Robert Baum.

"Her plans are to spend the weekend with her family and children," Baum said, but he could not elaborate on Jackson's plans beyond that.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones signed the order around noon for Jackson's immediate release, Baum said. Prosecutors agreed to restore the pre-trial bail package.

Jackson has served 14 months of her two-year, two-month sentence for an alleged plot to force Cosby to buy her silence over Jackson's claim that Cosby was her biological father. Cosby has denied the claim.

A federal appeals court threw out the conviction Wednesday, accepting the defense argument that the trial judge improperly instructed the jury on extortion law.

The appeals court found that the judge should have told the jury that wrongful intent was required to reach a conviction. That factor would have allowed the jury to consider whether Jackson could have wrongful intent if she believed she was Cosby's daughter.

The issue of paternity was ruled irrelevant to the charges. Cosby took a blood test after the trial to try to settle the dispute but Jackson and her mother, Shawn Upshaw, declined to take blood tests.

Cosby has acknowledged that he had an affair with Upshaw in the 1970s but has repeatedly denied that he is Jackson's father. He testified that he told Jackson, "I will be for you a father figure, but I am not your father."

The appeals court ordered the case be retried for Jackson and for two alleged accomplices whose convictions were also overturned.

But the appeals court fell far short of exonerating them, saying "evidence at the trial was plainly sufficient to support verdicts of guilty, had the jury been properly instructed."

"Right now the big question is whether the government feels that 14 months was sufficient punishment, or whether they will seek a new trial," Baum said.

Jackson is barred from contacting Cosby.

"She had hoped there could be some kind of reconciliation with Mr. Cosby, but she would not initiate it," Baum said.



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No decision on Autumn Jackson blood test yet
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