Supreme Court won’t review decision to overturn Bill Cosby’s conviction

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The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Pennsylvania prosecutors’ request to reinstate Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, a move that ends the criminal case that led to the jailing of the man formerly known as America’s dad name.

In an order issued on Monday, the court said, without giving further details, that it declined to hear the appeal filed by prosecutors last November.

The Supreme Court ruling leaves in place a ruling by a Pennsylvania appeals court last year that overturned Mr. Cosby’s 2018 conviction on due process grounds, allowing Mr. Cosby, 84, , to be released after serving nearly three years of a three-year sentence. to 10 years in prison.

Mr Cosby had been convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home near Philadelphia, although his lawyers argued at trial that the encounter, in 2004, had been consensual.

The case, one of the first high-profile criminal prosecutions of the #MeToo era, has drawn attention, partly because of Mr. Cosby’s fame and partly because dozens of women had, over years, brought similar accusations of sexual abuse against the artist. But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last June that Mr. Cosby’s due process rights were violated when the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal case against him despite what the appeals court ruled. deemed to be a binding verbal promise not to prosecute given to him by a former district attorney.

Former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., who said he believed in Ms Constand but was unsure if he could get a conviction, said he agreed years ago not to press charges against Mr. Cosby to induce him to testify in a civil case brought by Mrs. Constand. He said the substance of his promise was contained in a press release he issued at the time which said he had found insufficient, credible and admissible evidence. But he considered the possibility of a civil action “with a much lower standard of proof”. Ms Constand was later awarded $3.38 million as part of a settlement in her civil case against Mr Cosby.

During the civil case, Mr Cosby admitted to giving narcotics to women as part of an attempt to have sex with them, a statement which was later entered into evidence at Mr .Cosby.

Following Mr. Cosby’s conviction in 2018, an intermediate Pennsylvania appeals court found that no formal agreement never to prosecute had ever existed, a position that was consistent with what the trial court had decided.

But in a 6-to-1 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that Mr. Cosby had in fact relied on Mr. Castor’s assurances that he would not be prosecuted, and that the indictment of Mr. Cosby and the use of his drug testimony at the criminal trial had violated his due process rights.

Prosecutors had argued that such a promise was never made. They said no one else in the district attorney’s office at the time knew about it, and a press release could not form the basis of a formal immunity agreement.

A spokesman for Mr Cosby, Andrew Wyatt, welcomed the decision on Monday, saying in a statement that the artist and his family “would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States for following the rules of law and protected the constitutional rights of ALL American citizens.

Ms Constand and her attorneys released a statement on Monday criticizing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, particularly blaming the panel for assuming “there was a valid agreement not to sue, which was vigorously challenged in Habeas procedure and determined by the trial judge”. not exist. »

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele released a statement in which he expressed his gratitude to Ms. Constand and described the Supreme Court review request as “the right thing to do,” even though there was only a small chance that the court would take up the case.

“All victims of crime deserve to be heard, treated with respect and supported throughout their day in court,” the statement continued. “I wish her the best as she moves forward with her life.”

Mr Cosby was first accused in 2005 of assaulting Ms Constand, then an employee of the Temple University basketball team of which he had become a mentor. The case was reopened in 2015 and Mr Cosby went through two trials, the first of which ended in a hung jury. The second ended in April 2018, with a Montgomery County jury convicting Mr Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

Both cases have been closely watched by numerous women who have brought similar charges, but the statute of limitations in their cases has made further prosecutions unlikely.

Mr Cosby has always denied accusations that he was a sexual predator, suggesting any encounter was completely consensual.

Patricia Leary Steuer, who accused Mr Cosby of drugging and assaulting her in 1978 and 1980, said in an interview on Monday that she felt “a bit disappointed with the decision” but that “it doesn’t change anything for me And the others”. survivors” since, she says, public sentiment is on their side.

“The survivors did what we were supposed to do, which was to come forward and tell the truth and that’s what we did,” she said. “The rest is out of our hands.”

Legal experts had predicted that the Supreme Court, which rejects the vast majority of petitions for review, would be unlikely to take up the Cosby case. On the one hand, they said, the case involved a unique set of circumstances that did not necessarily raise sweeping constitutional issues.

Dennis McAndrews, a Pennsylvania lawyer and former prosecutor who has followed the case, said the Supreme Court “generally seeks to determine whether there are compelling questions of constitutional law on which courts across the country need guidance. extra, especially if the case is capable of repetition.”

Shan Wu, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, said the Supreme Court likely considered whether its ruling would have the potential to have broader significance outside the parameters of this case. “It’s a very unique set of circumstances,” he said. “It’s very unlikely to happen again.”

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