The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the sexual assault conviction of Bill Cosby on Wednesday, citing “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.” The 83-year-old American actor and comedian was subsequently released by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Cosby was charged with the sexual assault of Andrea Constand in 2004, and convicted in 2018.
Constand, a former basketball player and an employee at Temple University, accused Cosby of drugging and raping her at his Cheltenham home, in Philadelphia, in 2004. She first filed a complaint with the police in 2005.
The court’s decision on Wednesday was based on former District Attorney Bruce Castor declining to prosecute Cosby at that time. DA Castor, after evaluating the evidence, had concluded that “unless Cosby confessed, there was insufficient credible and admissible evidence upon which any charge against Mr Cosby related to the Constand incident could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The DA recommended filing a civil suit, which was settled in 2006 with $3.38 million paid as damages to Constand.
However, criminal charges were eventually filed against Cosby in 2015 based on revelations made during his 2005 deposition. The actor was convicted in 2018, around the same time that the #MeToo movement gained traction against Harvey Weinstein.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday found there was a “process violation” because Cosby’s lawyers had made an agreement with a previous state prosecutor (Castor) that he would not be charged in the case. The court thus overturned the conviction.
Between 2016 and 2018, several other women came out against Cosby, alleging he had sexually assaulted them. Only five of them were allowed to testify during his re-trial in 2017.
Cosby took to social media after his release on Wednesday, and wrote: “I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence. Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law.”
However, several women called out the court’s decision on social media.
Time’s Up President Tina Tchen released a statement condemning the court’s decision and calling the system ‘broken’.
“It reminds us again of the struggle that the survivors of his predatory behaviour and actions have endured to make their voices heard. The semblance of justice these women had in knowing Cosby was convicted has been completely erased with his release today,” the statement read.