July 25, 2021

Bill Cosby to be released from prison after his sexual assault conviction overturned

He had been the first celebrity tried in the #metoo era. Bill Cosby, 83, who was sentenced in September 2018 by a Pennsylvania judge to up to ten years in prison for sexual assault, had his sentence overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 30.

“Convictions and sentences imposed on Bill Cosby are overturned and he must be released”, writes the high court at the end of a long 79-page judgment which constitutes a snub for the #metoo movement.

In its decision, the Supreme Court recalls that Bruce Castor, the first prosecutor in charge of the case, had decided not to prosecute him in criminal matters, while encouraging him to testify in civil proceedings brought by the complainant. However, this testimony was then held against him during his trial, when a new prosecutor decided to relaunch the case years later, the magistrates note.

“When a prosecutor takes a public decision with the intention of influencing the actions of the accused and the latter does so to his detriment (and sometimes on the advice of his lawyer), denying him the benefit of this decision is an affront to the fundamental principle of fairness ”, they judge.

The creator of the television series “The Cosby Show” (1984-1992), legend of American television, considered the embodiment of the ideal father, actor, one of the first African-Americans to break into the small screen , had been convicted of sexual assault on Andrea Constand, former head of the basketball team at Temple University, in January 2004, at his home in Cheltenham, in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A first trial concerning this case had taken place in June 2017. But, after six days of deliberation, the procedure had ended with an annulment, the jurors not being able to agree on a verdict.

Bill Cosby was accused of sexual assault by more than sixty women, all of which were time barred except the one concerning Andrea Constand. As part of an out-of-court settlement, Bill Cosby had already paid Andrea Constand $ 3.38 million in 2006.

Read also 35 women publicly accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault

Le Monde with AFP and AP