Bill Cosby has been ordered released from custody Wednesday, June 30, because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his 2018 conviction. The Pennsylvania High Court said prosecutor Bruce Castor promised not to prosecute in 2005, and that promise needed to be honored by subsequent prosecutors. Because the agreement wasn’t honored, Cosby’s conviction was not validly obtained and is now void. Nothing in today’s judgment or opinion means Cosby is innocent; his factual guilt is not addressed.
Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against a Toronto woman after a jury trial in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, on April 26, 2018. He was sentenced on September 25, 2018, to three to ten years in state prison. That conviction, however, relied on statements Mr. Cosby made during civil litigation – and he only made those statements after assurances from prosecutors they were done with him. Therefore, he could not plead the Fifth in the civil litigation and refuse to testify against himself.
To put it plainly, the prosecutor (Bruce Castor) did not think he had enough evidence to succeed in a criminal case against Cosby. He still wanted to see Cosby suffer somehow, however, so he opened the door to Cosby losing in the civil trial by removing the protections Cosby might find in the Fifth Amendment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court order releasing Cosby goes into great detail on this point, quoting an email from the DA who made the deal to his successor:
“I wrote the attached [press release] as the ONLY comment I would make while the civil case was pending. Again, with the agreement of the defense lawyer and [Constand’s] lawyers, I intentionally and specifically bound the Commonwealth that there would be no state prosecution of Cosby in order to remove from him the ability to claim his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, thus forcing him to sit for a deposition under oath. . . .
Note the letter also included information that the civil accuser’s lawyers were included in this decision and agreed to it:
But those lawyers representing [Constand] civilly . . . were part of this agreement because they wanted to make Cosby testify. I believed at the time that they thought making him testify would solidify their civil case, but the only way to do that was for us (the Commonwealth) to promise not to prosecute him.
The Court ordered Cosby’s release Wednesday, saying, “Society’s interest in prosecution does not displace the remedy due to constitutionally aggrieved persons.”
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.