Bill Cosby released from prison after conviction overturned

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT) July 1, 2021
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2:03 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Cosby's due process rights were "violated," Pennsylvania court ruled

From CNN’s Sonia Moghe

Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County courthouse for his sentencing hearing in 2018.
Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County courthouse for his sentencing hearing in 2018. Matt Slocum/AP

A panel of Pennsylvania State Supreme Court judges ruled that there was a “vast” violation of Bill Cosby’s due process rights when he was criminally charged and convicted, a decade after a previous prosecutor had declined to prosecute him in order to urge him to sit for a civil deposition instead – which was ultimately used against him in his criminal trial. 

The panel of judges say in their opinion released Wednesday that when former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor investigated allegations of drugging and rape against Bill Cosby by a woman named Andrea Constand in 2005, Castor felt that “he would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cosby drugged and raped Constand.” 

“Seeking ‘some measure of justice’ for Constand, D.A. Castor decided that the Commonwealth would decline to prosecute Cosby for the incident involving Constand, thereby allowing Cosby to be forced to testify in a subsequent civil action, under penalty of perjury, without the benefit of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” the judges wrote. 

That civil deposition that Cosby ultimately sat for was later revealed in 2014, and one of Castor’s successor’s later used statements he made there as part of Cosby’s criminal trial. 

“In light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successor D.A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights,” the judges wrote.

The judges weighed different remedies – including having another trial for Cosby – but felt there was only one remedy that could serve as a proper remedy.

“He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred. We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here, indeed compelled,” they wrote.

1:53 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections says "Cosby will be released as soon as practical"

From CNN's Mark Morales

Bill Cosby will be released from prison after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated his 2018 conviction on sexual assault charges and judgment of sentence.

Cosby's attorney Brian Perry told CNN “we believe that he will be released from prison this afternoon.”

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said in a statement that they are aware of the decision.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is in receipt of today’s court decision. Work is underway to complete the necessary paperwork, and Mr. Cosby will be released as soon as practical," spokesperson Maria Bivens said in the statement to CNN.

2:07 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Attorney for 3 Cosby accusers: Overturning conviction is a "slap in the face to all of the victims"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Attorney Lisa Bloom pictured outside of the Montgomery County courthouse in 2018.
Attorney Lisa Bloom pictured outside of the Montgomery County courthouse in 2018. Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Lisa Bloom, the attorney for three Bill Cosby accusers, said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacating Cosby's conviction and judgment of sentence is "a slap in the face to all of the victims."

As Cosby could be released today, Bloom said she thinks it could be "a very hard day" for all the women who accused him of sexual assault. "I think it's going to be a re-triggering event for all of them who testified that he had drugged and raped them," she said.

"It just goes to show if you have money and power in the criminal justice system, and you can afford attorneys to fight and fight for years and years, eventually you may find a loophole and a way to get a conviction overturned. And that's what happened here," Bloom said.

"This conviction was overturned not because he's innocent, but because a prior prosecutor made a sweetheart deal with him and the court said today he could not have been prosecuted after that deal was made," Bloom said.

More than 50 women have publicly accused Cosby of raping or assaulting them over the past 40 years. In April 2018, a jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in a Philadelphia suburb in 2004.

1:50 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Bill Cosby's lawyer believes his client will be released today

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Bill Cosby is taken away in handcuffs after being sentenced in 2018.
Bill Cosby is taken away in handcuffs after being sentenced in 2018. Mark Makela/Getty Images

Lawyer for disgraced comedian Bill Cosby tells CNN “we believe that he will be released from prison this afternoon.”

Attorney Brian Perry said that he was en route to the prison where Cosby is being held following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to vacate his client's conviction and judgment of sentence.

Perry hadn’t yet been able to speak to his client and said once released, he was not sure where his client would go.

“Yes we are ecstatic with the supreme court’s decision,” Perry told CNN. “We always believed that this is how the case would end.

“We are grateful and happy that not only was the conviction vacated, but he was discharged,” meaning “case closed.” Earlier, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Courts said that it could not be appealed in the state of Pennsylvania.

“We put together a phenomenal appellate team lead by Jennifer Bonjean and Barb [Barbara] Zemlock – and we’re just thrilled and happy for Mr. Cosby and his family.”

Cosby’s lawyer tells CNN the court vacated the conviction and sentence because they believe the comedians due process rights were violated.

Perry said the court examined the non-prosecution agreement that Cosby made with a previous prosecutor, and how that was relied upon during the course of his civil deposition.

“The whole issue was can one DA make a deal and another say ‘I don’t care, I’m gonna make a new deal’"

The Supreme Court “basically said that wasn’t fair to him,” and at the end of the day “it has to be fair.”

CNN previously reported that a 2015 email sent by former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor to successor Risa Vetri Ferman – details an apparent verbal agreement the prosecutor had a decade earlier with Cosby’s attorneys for Cosby to testify in a civil sexual assault case brought against him in 2005.

In the email, Castor writes that his intent in making the deal was to create an atmosphere in which Cosby accuser Andrea Constand would have the best chance of prevailing in her civil suit against the 78-year-old comedian by removing the prospect of Cosby invoking his 5th Amendment right 

The deposition became a key piece of evidence, cited by prosecutors as the impetus for reopening the case. 

Cosby was eventually criminally charged in connection with that incident, then sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand at his home in 2004 – all of which now have been vacated at the highest level of state court.

 

1:41 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Read the court's opinion in the Cosby case

The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court has published its opinion in the Cosby case online.

The opinion from the state's highest court lays out the reasons why the judges overturned Cosby's 2018 conviction and states that Cosby's "convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged."

Read the full opinion below, or click here.

6:28 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

CNN legal analyst: Prosecutors face uphill battle to charge Cosby again

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig noted Wednesday that prosecutors face an uphill battle if they seek to try Bill Cosby for sexual assault of other victims because those cases could be barred by statute of limitations.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors cannot re-try Cosby for the sexual assault of Andrea Constand. Prosecutors therefore can seek to try Cosby only for sexual assault of other victims, and many or all of those cases could be barred by the statute of limitations at this point," he said.

Honig went on to say that if prosecutors decide to appeal the case, it will have to go to the US Supreme Court.

"The only possible appeal from this ruling is with the United States Supreme Court; it is not clear whether Pennsylvania prosecutors will seek to appeal, and even if they do, it is highly unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case," he said.

Cosby has denied all allegations made against him as being false.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that the Supreme Court indicated that prosecutors went too far to call up to five other alleged victims to establish a pattern against Cosby. The majority opinion says in a footnote that they didn't consider that issue. The headline and quotes have been updated to clarify what legal options remain for prosecutors in Pennsylvania when it comes to Cosby.

1:29 p.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Bill Cosby to be released from prison after conviction overturned

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Bill Cosby at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 2018.
Bill Cosby at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 2018. David Majaletti/Pool/Getty Images

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated Bill Cosby’s 2018 conviction and judgement of sentence, according Stacey Witalec, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Courts.

The majority opinion stated “Cosby convictions and judgement of sentence are vacated and he is discharged,” Witalec told CNN as she read from the majority opinion.

The court was split on its judgment with four in favor, two part in favor, part not in favor, and one who filed a dissent entirely.

The decision cannot appealed by the prosecution in the state of Pennsylvania.

When asked if Cosby can be released from prison today, Witalec deferred to the prisons department.

Cosby was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home 14 years ago.