Bill Cosby released from prison after conviction overturned

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:00 PM ET, Wed June 30, 2021
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8:09 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Bill Cosby's release from prison

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."
7:36 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Cosby accuser says overturned conviction "doesn't make him innocent"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Lise-Lotte Lublin who accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 1989 when she was 23 years old said the comedian's overturned conviction on a procedural technicality does not make him innocent.

"He's not innocent," said Lublin. "He's a notorious rapist and he just got away with it."

Lublin also indicated she and other accusers would continue to seek justice despite daunting legal hurdles ahead.

"This just means something went wrong in the system," said Lublin, speaking on CNN. "This a part of why we fight to change laws to change statute of limitations. Why would anyone even have a statute on personal harm?"

Cosby was released from prison after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges and judgment of sentence. He was sentenced in 2018 to 3 to 10 years in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004.

Elie Honig, a CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor, said the only place to appeal an opinion from the Pennsylvania's highest court is the US Supreme Court.

"There is no way the US Supreme Court will take this case. ... The court says you cannot retry him for this particular victim," he said of Constand. "We know that the statute of limitations has passed for many of these victims."

Lublin, for her part, said that despite today's outcome she feels partial justice had already been irreversibly served. 

"He did spend time in jail," she said. "Time is time. He can never get that back."

"He has become this infamous person versus a famous person, and he is going to have to deal with that," she added. "His consequences aren't over. He still has to walk through all of this shame."

7:14 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Attorney Gloria Allred calls Cosby court decision "devastating"

From CNN's Evan Simko-Bednarski

Gloria Allred, an attorney who represents several of the so-called "prior bad acts" witnesses who testified against Bill Cosby, said Wednesday that while she doubted the disgraced comedian would face further criminal charges, "Mr. Cosby is not home free."

Allred spoke to reporters at a virtual news conference hours after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled to overturn Cosby's 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges. 

Allred said the ruling meant that a California suit against the entertainer — in which she represents a woman who claims she was assaulted by Cosby at the age of 15 — can now proceed, as both sides had agreed to pause pending the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision. 

Allred said the decision meant that Cosby was unlikely to be tried again on criminal charges, thus giving him no basis to invoke the Fifth Amendment in an upcoming civil deposition.

"I'm looking forward to taking his deposition and really getting all the answers that we seek," Allred said. 

Asked to react to the Pennsylvania court's ruling, Allred said she found it surprising.

"It is what it is," she added. "In courts and in life, the only thing you can expect is the unexpected." 

"It's always two steps forward and one step backwards in the women's movement," she said.

Immediately prior to the news conference, Allred spoke to CNN during which she called the court's decision "devastating."

"Even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds," she said, "it should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he didn't engage in the acts of which he'd been accused."

6:53 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Bill Cosby thanks supporters in tweet: "I have never changed my stance nor my story"

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Bill 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."

Cosby was released from prison earlier today after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges and judgment of sentence.

Cosby was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home 14 years ago.

In a statement today, Constand called the decision "disappointing" and expressed concern 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."

7:08 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Cosby victim Andrea Constand calls court decision "disappointing"

Andrea Constand attends Bill Cosby's sentencing hearing in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 2018.
Andrea Constand attends Bill Cosby's sentencing hearing in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 2018. David Maialetti/Pool/Getty Images

Andrea Constand and her attorneys said today’s opinion to vacate Bill 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.

The statement added: "Once again, we remain grateful to those women who came forward to tell their stories, to DA Kevin Steele and the excellent prosecutors who achieve a conviction at trial, despite the ultimate outcome which resulted from a procedural technicality, and we urge all victims to have their voices heard." 

Earlier today: Cosby was released from prison after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges and judgment of sentence.

He had been sentenced to 10 years in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand at his home 14 years ago.

CNN’s Jean Casarez contributed to this report.

7:04 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Here's what Phylicia Rashad said about Cosby's sentence being overturned

From CNN's Lisa Respers France

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Phylicia Rashad has long been one of Bill Cosby's staunchest supporters and on Wednesday she shared her reaction to his sentence being overturned.

"FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!" Rashad tweeted, along with a photo of Cosby.

Cosby was released from a Pennsylvania prison after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges and sentence.

He was sentenced to 10 years in a state prison after being found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home 14 years ago.

Following her first tweet, which was met with criticism by some online, Rashad later shared another statement.

"I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward," Rashad wrote in a subsequent tweet.

"My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth," she wrote."Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My heartfelt wish is for healing."

Cosby and Rashad are long-time friends. Rashad has twice played his wife on television: from 1984--92 on the NBC sitcom "The Cosby Show" and on the CBS sitcom "Cosby" from 1996-2000.

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, including harassment, drugging and rape, dating back decades. Cosby has consistently disputed the allegations and maintained the relationships were consensual.

Read more here.

5:14 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Cosby attorney: "We've said from day one, we just didn't think he was treated fairly"

Brian Perry, one of Bill Cosby's attorneys, addressed the media this afternoon alongside the disgraced 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."

Cosby didn't speak during the press conference.

Earlier today: Cosby was released from prison after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges and judgment of sentence. Victoria Valentino, one of Cosby's accusers, told CNN she was "stunned" by the court's decision.

Watch more from the press conference:

4:13 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

SOON: Bill Cosby will hold a news conference with attorneys

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Bill Cosby will hold a news conference with his attorneys at approximately 4:20 p.m., his publicist Andrew Wyatt told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

One of Cosby’s attorneys also noted Cosby was napping and wanted to take a bath, so it’s unclear if the timing of the news conference will change.

 

4:30 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Bill Cosby accuser says his release is "a sad statement about a woman's value"

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

Victoria Valentino attends Bill Cosby’s trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 2017.
Victoria Valentino attends Bill Cosby’s trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 2017. Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Bill Cosby is being released from prison after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges and judgment of sentence. Victoria Valentino, one of Cosby's accusers, told CNN she was "stunned" by the court's decision.

Valentino said she had recently received a letter stating that Cosby's parole was preemptively denied due to a lack of remorse and a refusal to participate in programs for abusers.

She said that when she first heard about Cosby's release she was "shocked." Valentino said her phone was bombarded with messages from media, loved ones and survivors.

"For this to come out of left field is — it's a gut punch," Valentino said. "There's no other way to describe it."

Valentino said the decision sends Cosby's accusers "back to square one."

"What does that say about a woman's worth? A woman's value? Do our lives mean nothing? All of the lives that he damaged," Valentino said. "I'm infuriated. I'm shaking."

Valentino told CNN this decision is especially disappointing since the women who accused Cosby kickstarted the #MeToo movement and encouraged other women to find their voices.

"Because we spoke out and we saw justice with Cosby, everyone else felt empowered and spoke out," she said.

"This is really a sad statement about a woman's value, a woman's worth - what is happening right now, and we need to do something about this. I just don't know what," Valentino said. "I'm so stunned. My stomach is in knots."

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