Bill Cosby will be released from a state prison in Pennsylvania after the state supreme court vacated his conviction and judgment of sentence, according to court spokesperson Stacey Witalec.
“Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated and he is discharged,” Witalec told CNN Wednesday, reading from the majority opinion.
Cosby, 83, was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
He has served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence — the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era, AP reported.
It’s a stunning reversal for the comedian and actor who was once known as “America’s Dad” for his “clean comedy” role as Cliff Huxtable in the long-running family-oriented comedy TV series, “The Cosby Show.”
Cosby was arrested in 2015 when a district attorney used newly unsealed evidence — the comic’s own incriminating deposition testimony in a lawsuit brought by Constand — to bring charges against him days before the 12-year statute of limitations ran out.
However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by a predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby. There is no evidence that promise was ever put in writing, AP reported. The court found that Cosby’s due process rights were violated when he was charged for a 2004 assault after previously being promised by prosecutors that they wouldn’t bring criminal charges against him.
Justice David Wecht, writing for a split court, said Cosby had relied on the former prosecutor’s decision not to charge him when the comedian later gave potentially incriminating testimony in Constand’s civil case.
The court 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.”
Cosby was denied parole in May after he refused to participate in sex offender programs in prison. He has long said he would refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even if it means serving the full 10-year sentence. In December 2019, Cosby lost an appeal of his sexual assault conviction.
Prosecutors said Cosby used his fame and “family man” persona to manipulate young women, presenting himself as a mentor before betraying them.
Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand. Constand settled her civil suit with Cosby for $3.38 million, NPR reported.
The Supreme Court’s opinion centered on a promise to Cosby by former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor in 2005 that Cosby would not be charged for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand.
Years later, when a succeeding prosecutor, Risa Ferman, decided to file criminal charges against Cosby, the depositions under oath were used against Cosby at his trial.
The judges described this about-face as “an affront to fundamental fairness,” saying “no mere changing of the guard strips that circumstance of its inequity,” according to NPR.