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Pa. high court overturns Bill Cosby's conviction, frees him from prison

Pa. high court overturns Bill Cosby's conviction, frees him from prison
Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse in shackles following his sentencing in Norristown, Pa., on September 25, 2018. File Photo by Chris Szagola/UPI | License Photo

June 30 (UPI) -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned actor Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction and freed him from prison.

The ruling from the state's highest court means he can't be retried on accusations that he drugged and sexually assaulted former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. He was originally convicted in 2018.

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Cosby had served two years of a three- to 10-year sentence.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed the conviction on the grounds that Cosby had an agreement with a previous prosecutor that he wouldn't be charged in the case. Former Montgomery County prosecutor Bruce Castor said he promised Cosby he wouldn't criminally prosecute him if the actor agreed to testify in Constand's civil lawsuit brought in 2005.

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Cosby agreed to forfeit his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and gave a deposition for four days. But when Kevin R. Steele took over as prosecutor, he filed criminal charges in 2015.

Steele said he was disappointed Cosby "now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime."

"We still believe that no one is above the law -- including those who are rich, famous and powerful."

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Castor, though, agreed with the ruling.

"The Supreme Court has now ruled that the prosecution and the trial judge were wrong, and I was right," he said, according to The Washington Post. "It's obvious the court agrees with what I did.

"This is a victory for the Constitution, not necessarily for Mr. Cosby. He won't be able to get nearly three years of his life back and the stress of two trials and the impact of that on his health. But it does say the system works."

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The state's high court also said the trial judge should never have allowed five other women to take the stand to accuse Cosby of separate incidents of misconduct. The judge initially allowed one woman to testify, but allowed four more women to speak at trial after the jury couldn't reach a verdict.

Cosby, in his appeal of the conviction, argued he was stripped of his presumption of innocence because the testimonies of the five other women served no purpose other than to suggest that because they alleged Cosby made non-consensual contact with them his contact with Constand was also non-consensual.

"Having identified a due process violation here, we must ascertain the remedy to which Cosby is entitled," the court said.

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Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby's wife on The Cosby Show, reacted to Wednesday's news with a tweet.

"FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!"

Constand has yet to release a statement about the ruling, but fellow accuser, Victoria Valentino, told CNN she was "stunned."

"What does that say about a woman's worth? A woman's value? Do our lives mean nothing? All of the lives that he damaged. I'm infuriated. I'm shaking," she said.

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