Bill Cosby is free.
The prolific star of iconic 1980’s sitcom The Cosby Show was released from prison Wednesday, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated his 2018 conviction for sexual assault. He had been found guilty of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. Her story prompted dozens of other women to come forward with similar accusations against the star.
Cosby, who’d been behind bars since his conviction, had always maintained his innocence. He was denied parole in May, after he declined to acknowledge that he had done wrong by completing a treatment program. His sentence was for up to 10 years. So why is he out already?
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know.
What exactly happened?
Cosby had appealed his conviction late last year, and this is the result. The court ruled in a split decision that a deal Cosby had made with the former district attorney that he wouldn’t be charged should have protected him for being prosecuted. That official, Bruce L. Castor Jr., who went on to defend former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, had pledged not to charge the former TV dad if he “agreed to sit for a deposition in a civil case” that Constand had filed, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The newspaper explained that parts of that deposition, in which he made incriminating statements about giving drugs to women, were later used to prosecute the TV star.
Another reason the court cited for its action is that jurors had been allowed to hear the testimony of five more of Cosby’s accusers with stories similar to that of Constand.
The Associated Press reported that Justice David Wecht wrote that throwing out Cosby’s conviction “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”
What the victims are saying
The organization that Constand founded for sexual assault survivors, Hope Healing Transformation, did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment. Like Constand’s personal accounts, its social media accounts were silent immediately following the Cosby ruling.
However, a few other Cosby accusers responded through their attorney, Lisa Bloom, who called the ruling “a kick in the gut to victims and their advocates” in one of her many tweets on the subject. The women were “disgusted,” Bloom said.
And they weren’t the only ones.
Why so many people are talking about Phylicia Rashad
Cosby’s former TV wife on The Cosby Show has long defended him, and she continued to do so after his release.
After her post, people called out Rashad for her stance, noting that she’s the new dean of Howard University’s School of Fine Arts.
What’s next for Cosby
Cosby’s lawyer and spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment. But he told TMZ Wednesday morning that he had just spoken to Cosby’s wife, Camille, and was on his way to pick up his client.
“She is excited!” Wyatt said of Cosby’s wife since 1964.
He added that the fact that Cosby is now back out in the world “says a lot about the charges and about all the things that these women said about him.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced that he was released just before 2:30 p.m.
Watt later issued a statement from Cosby’s family: “I want to thank the Supreme Court who saw the light and saw the truth.”
What’s not in the 83-year-old’s future is being retried in the same case, because the court’s decision takes that off the table. Constand long ago settled a civil lawsuit in the matter; Cosby paid her $3.38 million as part of a 2006 deal.
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