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Bill Cosby released from prison after sexual assault conviction is overturned

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Posted at 11:36 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 14:59:04-04

Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction, officials said. Cosby, 83, was convicted of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said Cosby was released from a Phoenix prison just before 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

In its ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said a "non-prosecution agreement" agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented Cosby from facing charges. With the ruling, the judges wrote that "Cosby's convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged."

In 2005, Bruce Castor, the top prosecutor Montgomery County, found it would be difficult to prosecute Cosby without any "corroborating forensic evidence."

The court said Castor declined to prosecute Cosby in exchange for his testimony, without his Fifth Amendment rights, in a subsequent civil case. It said Castor's successor, District Attorney Kevin Steele, violated these terms when he arrested Cosby in 2015.

"In light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successor D.A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby's due process rights," the judges wrote.

"There is only one remedy that can completely restore Cosby to the status quo ante," they wrote. "He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred. We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here, indeed compelled."

District Attorney Kevin Steele called the basis of the Supreme Court's decision a procedural issue "irrelevant" to the facts of Cosby's crimes, but encouraged those who shared their experiences in court.

"I want to commend Cosby's victim Andrea Constand for her bravery in coming forward and remaining steadfast throughout this long ordeal, as well as all of the other women who have shared similar experiences," Steele said in a statement Wednesday. "My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assaults by victims. Prosecutors in my office will continue to follow the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads. We still believe that no one is above the law—including those who are rich, famous and powerful."

News of Cosby's release drew mixed reactions from both fans and those who knew him personally.

"FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!" Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby's on on-screen wife Claire Huxtable, tweeted Wednesday.

"I am furious to hear this news," said writer and Times Up founder Amber Tamblyn. "I personally know women who this man drugged and raped while unconscious. Shame on the court and this decision."

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents three of Cosby's accusers, called the news "a kick in the gut" to those who had testified against him.

"The 3 Bill Cosby accusers I represent and I are disgusted that he is a free man today," Bloom tweeted. "The conviction. We couldn't believe it: justice, a tiny bit, finally. And now this.The conviction. We couldn't believe it: justice, a tiny bit, finally. And now this."

This story is breaking and will be updated.