Notorious comedian Bill Cosby was released from prison today after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled to overturn his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges.
Here's what happened:
- Why he was released: A panel of Pennsylvania State Supreme Court judges ruled that there was a “vast” violation of Cosby’s due process rights when he was criminally charged and convicted, a decade after a previous prosecutor had declined to prosecute him in order to urge him to sit for a civil deposition instead – which was ultimately used against him in his criminal trial. The panel of judges say in their opinion released Wednesday that when former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor investigated allegations of drugging and rape against Cosby by a woman named Andrea Constand in 2005, Castor felt that “he would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cosby drugged and raped Constand.”
- Constand speaks out: Constand and her attorneys said Wednesday's opinion to vacate Cosby’s conviction is disappointing and could discourage others survivors of sexual assault from coming forward. "Today’s majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action," the statement said.
- Cosby tweets: Cosby thanked his supporters and tweeted a photo of himself Wednesday night, saying he never changed his stance or story. “I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence,” Cosby tweeted. “Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law."
- The original prison sentence: Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in a state prison. He was ordered to pay a fine of $25,000 plus the costs of prosecution as part of the sentence. In addition, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Judge Steven O’Neill ruled that Cosby would be classified as a “sexually violent predator,” a determination that requires lifetime registration, lifetime mandatory sex offender counseling with a treatment provider and notification to the community that a “sexually violent predator” lives in the area.
- Gloria Allred reacts: The famed attorney, who represented many of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of misconduct, says the court decision to release Cosby is “devastating” for the accusers. “My heart especially goes out to those who bravely testified in both of his criminal cases,” Allred said in a statement. “Despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, this was an important fight for justice and even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby’s conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused.”
- Cosby's attorney commends the court's decision: Brian Perry, one of Cosby's attorneys, addressed the media Wednesday afternoon alongside the comedian, saying "the system has to be fair, and fortunately the Supreme Court agreed with us." "We've said from day one, we just didn't think he was treated fairly. And that...the system has to be fair, and fortunately the Supreme Court agreed with us," Perry said. "He's happy, his wife is happy. The system only works if it's fair to all sides. That's the bottom line."