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Bill Cosby, walks FREE at 83,
Phylicia Rashad is catching heat for celebrating Bill Cosby’s release from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction.
“FINALLY!!!!” she wrote on Twitter. “A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!
Cosby is set to be released from prison on Wednesday after the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court has vacated his conviction. The court agreed to review two aspects of Cosby’s case. The first involved the judge’s decision to let prosecutors call five other accusers. The other examined Cosby’s argument that he had an agreement with a former prosecutor that he’d never be charged, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cosby has been hoping the state Supreme Court, which heard his appeal in December, would reverse his conviction in the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era. Cosby’s lawyers say the trial was flawed because five other accusers were allowed to testify to support the sexual assault complaint filed by a former Temple University basketball team manager.
They also say the judge should not have let the jury hear Cosby’s damaging testimony from accuser Andrea Constand’s related civil suit.
“Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged,” the justices wrote in their opinion, as reported by Deadline. The ruling means Cosby can not be charged for the rape of Constand again.
While the comments on Rashad’s tweet were closed, several angry Twitter users expressed their fury over her remarks.
Check out some of the reactions below.
Bill Cosby on Wednesday evening thanked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for their shock decision to free him, only three years into his 10 year sentence for sexual assault.
Cosby, 83, flashed a peace sign to news crews on Wednesday as he arrived home after being released from prison in Pennsylvania, hours after the court overturned his sexual assault conviction.
His spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, described his release as 'justice for black America' - enraging many of Cosby's accusers.
He was freed on the grounds that a former prosecutor promised him that he wouldn't be charged in 2005 and lulled him into incriminating himself.
The disgraced comedian tweeted: '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. #BillCosby'
The decision to free Cosby - once known as 'America's Dad' - has 'shocked and disgusted' his accusers.
Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahman described the ruling as 'mind-blowing', adding: 'This is extremely rare. This is unprecedented.'
Former Congresswoman Katie Hill tweeted: 'On today's episode of How the Justice System Fails Victims: Bill Cosby is released on a technicality.'
Andrea Constand, whose testimony about a 2004 attack secured his conviction, said: 'Today's majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action.'
Cosby himself called in to local Philadelphia radio station WDAS-FM, where he said the audience needed 'clarity, they need guidance.'
'Because this is not just a black thing,' Cosby said.
'This is for all the people who have been imprisoned wrongfully regardless of race, color, or creed. Because I met them in there. People who talked about what happened and what they did. And I know there are many liars out there.'
Cosby, dresssed all in white, hugs his supporters outside his home in Pennsylvania. His ever-loyal spokesman Andrew Wyatt is seen standing behind, with a black shirt and glasses
Cosby flashes a peace sign outside his home in Pennsylvania, shortly after his release
Cosby is pictured on the phone to his spokesman Andrew Wyatt, in an undated call
Wyatt, his spokesman, said: 'We want to thank the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This is what we have been fighting for and this is justice and justice for black America.'
Cosby did not speak to the media outside his Elkins Park home, but instead gestured to show his relief
Cosby was jailed in 2018 for sexually assaulting Constand, who had reported her claims to the police in 2005.
The murky legal explanation for why Cosby was released hinges on a statement made in 2005 by former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, who decided not to charge Cosby because he thought there wasn't enough corroborating evidence to back up Constand's claims.
Instead, he thought she'd get a better chance at 'seeking justice' in a civil lawsuit so he dropped the criminal case. It meant that Cosby had to give evidence in the civil lawsuit - he wasn't allowed to invoke his fifth amendment right - and as a result, he made a comment about how he used Quaaludes to get women to have sex with him.
Ten years later, eight years after Castor had left office, a different prosecutor charged Cosby, using the deposition remarks as evidence. By then, dozens more women had come forward publicly to accuse him of sexual assault but none of their claims could be prosecuted because they fell outside Pennsylvania's statute of limitations. Some of them were allowed to testify at Cosby's trial - which he said was unfair and tainted the jury.
Cosby maintains that Castor gave him an 'immunity deal' and that that's the only reason he gave the remarks in the deposition.
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with him.
They said Cosby was robbed of his fifth amendment right not to speak and gave depositions in which he incriminated himself ensuring Constand a better settlement pay-out.
Angry protesters hold placards on the road outside Cosby's house on Wednesday afternoon as the entertainer was freed
Cosby's release has been met with widespread anger and disappointment. Protesters lined the road outside his home on Wednesday
A fan of Cosby shows support for the disgraced star outside his home
Castor's successor's decision to pursue a criminal prosecution - despite Castor's earlier assurances - was on Wednesday characterized by the Supreme Court as a 'coercive bait and switch.'
'The moment that Cosby was charged criminally, he was harmed: all that he had forfeited earlier, and the consequences of that forfeiture in the civil case, were for naught. This was an unconstitutional 'coercive bait-and-switch,'' they wrote.
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Bill Cosby outside his home in Pennsylvania on Wednesday after being released from prison. He did not speak but nodded and smiled as his legal team celebrated the decision
Cosby with his legal team standing outside his mansion in Pennsylvania on Wednesday
Bill Cosby, 83, flashes a peace sign at news crews as he arrives home on Wednesday after having his sexual assault conviction overturned by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court in a shock decision, two years into his 10 year sentence
Bill Cosby, in this white vehicle, is released from SCI Phoenix in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. The Supreme Court filed a 79-page ruling granting his release and banning him from future prosecution
This is how Pennsylvania's Supreme Court voted to free Cosby or keep him jailed. Justice David Wecht (top left) wrote the decision and the court's three female justices, Debra Todd (bottom right), Christine Donohue (second top left) and Sallie Updyke Mundy (top right) agreed with him. Justices Max Baer (bottom left), Thomas G. Saylor (bottom middle) and Kevin M. Dougherty (top, second from right) dissented
Former Montgomery County DA Bruce Castor
The Supreme Court did not rule on whether or not the testimony of five women who were 'bad act' witnesses contributed to Cosby's fate, or whether or not their testimony was fair. Instead, they looked only at the comment made by Montgomery County Prosecutor Bruce Castor, and found that it was the reason Cosby should go free.
In 2005, Cosby had been reported to Castor's office by the police in Pennsylvania after Andrea Constand reported the alleged assault.
It became public knowledge.
After pursuing an investigation, Castor's office released a press release saying he would not be charging Cosby because of a lack of evidence.
That press release is the 'deal' Cosby thinks he made. There was no formal definition in it about how long it would last or if future prosecutors were bound by it.
This is part of the release:
'Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor, Jr. has announced that a joint investigation... into allegations against actor and comic Bill Cosby is concluded.
This is the 2005 release by Castor's office which Cosby thought was an 'immunity deal'
'The detectives could find no instance in Mr. Cosby’s past where anyone complained to law enforcement of conduct, which would constitute a criminal offense.
'After reviewing the above and consulting with County and Cheltenham detectives, the District Attorney finds insufficient, credible, and admissible evidence exists upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt.
'In making this finding, the District Attorney has analyzed the facts in relation to the elements of any applicable offenses, including whether Mr. Cosby possessed the requisite criminal intent.
'After this analysis, the District Attorney concludes that a conviction under the circumstances of this case would be unattainable.
'As such, District Attorney Castor declines to authorize the filing of criminal charges in connection with this matter. Because a civil action with a much lower standard for proof is possible, the District Attorney renders no opinion concerning the credibility of any party involved so as to not contribute to the publicity and taint prospective jurors.
'The District Attorney does not intend to expound publicly on the details of his decision for fear that his opinions and analysis might be given undue weight by jurors in any contemplated civil action. District Attorney Castor cautions all parties to this matter that he will reconsider this decision should the need arise.
'Much exists in this investigation that could be used (by others) to portray persons on both sides of the issue in a less than flattering light. The District Attorney encourages the parties to resolve their dispute from this point forward with a minimum of rhetoric.
'After reviewing the above and consulting with County and Cheltenham detectives, the District Attorney finds insufficient, credible, and admissible evidence exists upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt.'
In emails years later, Castor said that he made the deal with Cosby to get Constand a settlement.
In one, which is included in the Supreme Court decision, he says: 'The attached is the written determination that we would not prosecute Cosby. That was what the lawyers for [Constand] wanted and I agreed.
'The reason I agreed and the plaintiff’s lawyers wanted it in writing is so that Cosby could not take the 5th Amendment to avoid being deposed or testifying. A sound strategy to employ.'
The Supreme Court ruled that the prosecutor - far from trying to let Cosby off the hook - performed a legal 'bait and switch' and lulled him into making incriminating statements.
'The moment that Cosby was charged criminally, he was harmed: all that he had forfeited earlier, and the consequences of that forfeiture in the civil case, were for naught. This was, as the CDO itself characterizes it, an unconstitutional 'coercive bait-and-switch'. In his decision, Justice David Wecht said that the only remedy was to free Cosby and to stop him from ever being prosecuted again.
'He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred,' Wecht wrote.
Three other justices agreed and three dissented, tipping the scales in Cosby's favor by one vote.
'All three women on the court agreed that Cosby should be freed. The three who dissented are all men.
Over the next ten years, multiple women come forward in the press and civil lawsuits to accuse him but it wasn't until 2015 that he was charged.
He was charged two weeks before the statute of limitations would have rendered Constand's claims expired.
All of the other claims are too old to be prosecuted.
In 2018, he was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to between three and ten years behind bars.
Constand testified at his trial along with five others who spoke about their own allegations against him.
Those women were Chelan Lasha, Janice Baker Kinney, Janice Dickinson, Lise-Lotte Lublin and Heidi Thomas.
When Cosby, 83, was sentenced for his crimes against Constand, the other accusers seized it as their own justice too.
The disgraced comedian always fought his conviction, despite admitting in a deposition that he used Quaaludes on women, without their knowledge, with the hope of later having sex with them.
He was sentenced to between three and ten years but he vowed to serve the full ten because anything less would have required him to express remorse.
Now, lawyers from other trials may seize on the Cosby decision to undo their client's convictions.
One recent notable case where prosecutors used other witnesses to describe a pattern of behavior rather than testify about a specific crime was that of Harvey Weinstein.
He fought to exclude other women's testimony from his trial.
Another is the actor Cuba Gooding Jr., who was charged for a handful of crimes after women allegedly involved in multiple other incidents testified to prosecutors.
The Supreme Court stayed away from the issue in its ruling.
Justice Wecht wrote: 'As we discuss in more detail below, at Cosby's trial, the trial court permitted the Commonwealth to call five witnesses who testified that Cosby had engaged in similar sexually abusive patterns with each of them.
'We granted allowance of appeal here as well to consider the admissibility of that prior bad act evidence.
'However, because our decision on the Castor declination issue disposes of this appeal, we do not address the claim.'
At the end of the decision, he wrote: 'Accordingly, we do not address Cosby's other issue.'
The law allows the testimony only in limited cases, including to show a crime pattern so specific it serves to identify the perpetrator.
In Cosby's case, one of his appellate lawyers said prosecutors put on vague evidence about the uncharged conduct, including Cosby´s own recollections in his deposition about giving women alcohol or Quaaludes before sexual encounters.
'The presumption of innocence just didn´t exist for him,' Jennifer Bonjean, the lawyer, argued to the court in December.
Prosecutors said Cosby repeatedly used his fame and 'family man' persona to manipulate young women, holding himself out as a mentor before betraying them.
Cosby, a groundbreaking black actor who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, made a fortune estimated at $400 million during his 50 years in the entertainment industry.
His trademark clean comedy and homespun wisdom fueled popular TV shows, books and standup acts.
He fell from favor in his later years as he lectured the black community about family values, but was attempting a comeback when he was arrested.
'There was a built-in level of trust because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he held himself out as a public moralist,' Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, of suburban Montgomery County, argued to the justices.
Cosby had invited Constand to an estate he owns in Pennsylvania the night she said he drugged and sexually assaulted her.
Cosby's wife Camille always stood by him, insisting he was innocent.
In her most recent interview, after the state Supreme Court agreed to hear his appeal, she said: 'My first reaction is hopefulness, possibilities.
'The state's highest court has said: 'Wait a minute. There are some problems here. They can be considered for an appeal.'
'I'm very, very pleased.'
His accusers said they were 'shocked' and 'disgusted' by the decision.
Constand released a joint statement with her attorneys on Wednesday, asserting that she was never privy to any kind of prosecutorial deal with Cosby in 2005.
'Today's majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action,' the statement said.
Lisa Bloom, who represents three of his victims, tweeted that they were 'disgusted' by the decision - which amounts to a legal technicality rather than him being innocent.