Bill Cosby was released from prison today. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction after justices ruled that the comedian had been denied a fair trial.
Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor Jr. declined to prosecute Cosby in 2005, because he believed accuser Andrea Constand’s account of being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in 2004 was unreliable and didn’t have enough evidence. That’s why Cosby—with the assurance that he wouldn’t be prosecuted—divulged in a civil case brought by Constand that he had given quaaludes to women he had pursued sexually, as explained by The New York Times. But years later, after Castor’s departure from office, his successor Kevin Steele did not uphold Castor’s deal. When Steele moved forward with criminal charges, Cosby’s testimony in the civil case was used as evidence.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Steele was obligated to stand by Castor’s promise not to charge the comedian. There is no evidence that the promise was ever put in writing.
The court said that the decision not to charge Cosby “opened the door for him to speak freely in a lawsuit against him—and that testimony was key in his conviction years later by another prosecutor.” The court also confirmed Cosby cannot be retried on the same charges.
In a statement shared by CNN, Steele says:
“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. 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.”
Cosby was found guilty on three accounts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018. This was after a second trial; the first, in 2017, ended in a mistrial and a hung jury. Though Cosby faced up to 10 years in prison, he served nearly three. Cosby was also denied parole in May after refusing to participate in sex offender programs in prison. At the time of publication, Cosby was set to hold a news conference with his attorneys.