Bill Cosby freed from prison for sex crimes: Supporters praise court for ‘seeing the lies’

Bill Cosby’s supporters have praised the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for “seeing the lies” and overturning the entertainer’s conviction for drugging and raping a woman.

Cosby, 83, walked free from prison this morning after serving three years due to a Pennsylvania Supreme court ruling that the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge Cosby.

The TV star once dubbed “America’s Dad” attended a press conference soon after returning to his home, but left the talking to his spokesman Andrew Wyatt and his legal team.

Wyatt thanked the court for “seeing the lies, seeing Mr Cosby had immunity”.

“This is what we have been fighting for and this is justice and justice for Black America. This is justice Mr Cosby has been fighting for. They saw the light,” he said.

Wyatt claimed that Cosby had always used his celebrity and likeness to “uplift women” and that he should never have been charged.

“Today innocence came to Mr Cosby,” he said referring to Cosby as a “great American citizen” who had been a mentor to fellow inmates while in prison.

Earlier: Cosby flashes victory sign after freedom

Bill Cosby flashed a “victory” sign after walking out of prison after his conviction was sexual assault was sensationally overturned.

In a stunning reversal of fortune for the comedian, the Pennsylvania Supreme court ruled that the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge Cosby.

He is legally blind and the new court ruling bars any retrial in the case.

Cosby 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 Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004. The 83-year-old was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era.

The former “Cosby Show” star was arrested in 2015, when a district attorney armed with newly unsealed evidence — the comic’s damaging deposition testimony in a lawsuit brought by Constand — brought charges against him days before the 12-year statute of limitations ran out.

But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said 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. There was no evidence that promise was ever put in writing.

'Affront to fundamental fairness'

Justice David Wecht, writing for a split court, said Cosby had relied on the former 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 arrest “an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was forgone for more than a decade.”

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”.

“Mr Cosby should never have been prosecuted for these offences,” said lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, who argued Cosby’s appeal. “District attorneys can’t change it up simply because of their political motivation.” She said Cosby remains in excellent health, despite being legally blind.

Four judges formed the majority that ruled in Cosby’s favour, while three others dissented in whole or in part.

Peter Goldberger, a suburban Philadelphia lawyer with an expertise in criminal appeals, said prosecutors could ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for re-argument or reconsideration, but it would be a very long shot.

“I can’t imagine that with such a lengthy opinion, with a thoughtful concurring opinion and a thoughtful dissenting opinion, that you could honestly say they made a simple mistake that would change their minds if they point it out to them,” Goldberger said.

Even though Cosby was charged only with the assault on Constand, the trial judge allowed five other accusers to testify that they, too, were similarly victimised by Cosby in the 1980s. Prosecutors called them as witnesses to establish what they said was a pattern of criminal behavior on Cosby’s part.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices voiced concern about what they saw as the judiciary’s increasing tendency to allow testimony that crosses the line into character attacks. State law allows “prior bad acts” testimony only in limited cases, including to show a crime pattern so specific it serves to identify the perpetrator.

– Additional reporting: AP

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