Bill Cosby released from prison after court decision overturned
By Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Bill Cosby "has been released" from prison, according to Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokesperson Maria Bevins.
The court ruled that a "non-prosecution agreement" with a previous prosecutor should have prevented him from being charged in the case.
"When an unconditional charging decision is made publicly and with the intent to induce action and reliance by the defendant...denying the defendant the benefit of that decision is an affront to fundamental fairness," said the high court opinion authored by Justice David Wecht.
He continued, "For these reasons, Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged."
The 83-year-old comedian and actor had a six-decades long TV career and was known as "America's Dad". He has served more than two years of a three-to-10 year sentence in a state prison in Montgomery County after his conviction on charges he drugged and molested Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004.
Cosby was recently denied parole, and had vowed to serve all 10 years, in part over his refusal to acknowledge any remorse or admit guilt for crimes he maintains he did not commit. He also refused to take part in sex offender programs at the prison.
"For this to come out of left field is – it's a gut punch," Victoria Valentino, one of Cosby's accusers, told CNN on Wednesday.
Celebrities sounded off with various opinions over the decision
The history of Bill Cosby's case
The case had a complicated history that began in 2005 when Constand first reported the alleged 2004 assault to then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., who ultimately declined to file charges in this case.
But Castor’s successors reopened the case and charged Cosby in 2015, just days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired and amid a barrage of new accusations from women across the country.
At the time, Castor objected to the new prosecution, saying he’d struck a deal with Cosby and his lawyers not to prosecute him for Constand’s assault if Cosby agreed to sit for a deposition in a civil case she had filed against him.
Excerpts from that deposition were ultimately used against Cosby at trial.
He was charged in late 2015, when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence – Cosby’s damaging deposition from her lawsuit – arrested him days before the statute of limitations expired.
The court ruled Wednesday the evidence was unfairly used against him.
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Press