Pa. Supreme Court overturns Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, freeing him from prison

By: - June 30, 2021 1:40 pm

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg (Capital-Star file)

After spending three years behind bars, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the sexual conviction of comedian and actor Bill Cosby.

In its ruling, the state’s highest court said former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor’s decision not to charge Cosby in 2005, freeing Cosby to testify in a subsequent civil suit without his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, allowed another prosecutor to try him, according to court documents.

Cosby had relied on the former prosecutor’s decision not to charge him when the comedian gave his potentially incriminating testimony in the civil case, the Associated Press reported.

Cosby, now 83, was convicted in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004, and had been sentenced to three to 10 years in prison, according to CNBC. In a ruling authored by Justice David Wecht, the high court ruled that he could not be tried twice for the same charge.

“When an unconditional charging decision is made publicly and with the intent to induce action and reliance by the defendant, and when the defendant does so to his detriment (and in some instances upon the advice of counsel), denying the defendant the benefit of that decision is an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was foregone for more than a decade,” the high court ruled.

“For these reasons, Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged,” the decision reads.

Justices Debra Todd, Sallie Mundy, and Christine Donohue joined Wecht in the opinion. Justice Kevin Dougherty concurred in part of the opinion and dissented in part. He was joined by Chief Justice Max Baer. Justice Thomas Saylor filed a dissenting opinion.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.