Bill Cosby’s Release Explained

July 1, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

The Underlying Facts of His Conviction[1]

Comedian and television star Bill Cosby has been released from prison after serving three of his three-to-ten-year sentence for his sexual assault conviction. Cosby was originally arrested in 2015 and convicted in a jury trial in 2018 on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for the sexual assault and drugging of Andrea Constand, a Temple University sports administrator, that occurred eleven years prior. Cosby’s conviction was one of the first celebrity sexual assault convictions to occur during the “#MeToo” era, a time in which Hollywood’s sexual transgressions were routinely unearthed by victims coming forward. Several women, Constand included, came forward alleging sexual harassment and assault. In 2005, Cosby was arrested by a district attorney who received newly unsealed evidence – namely, his deposition in a lawsuit brought by Constand – and filed charges against him just before the twelve-year statute of limitations was about to expire.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Decision[2]

On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the district attorney, Kevin Steele, who filed the charges against Cosby, was bound by his predecessor, Bruce L. Castor, Jr.’s, promise not to charge Cosby. Though this agreement was never put in writing, Justice David Wecht stated in the seventy-nine-page opinion that Cosby relied on the predecessor’s promise when he gave his incriminating deposition in the civil case brought by Constand. This deposition was incredibly important in the criminal case, since Cosby admitted to drugging several women with quaaludes before sexually assaulting them. In the six-to-one opinion by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the justices held that Kevin Steele’s decision to prosecute Cosby violated his due process rights. As a remedy, the court ruled that he cannot be retried. While the court admitted that the remedy is both “severe and rare,” they justify that it is “warranted [and] compelled” due to the constitutional violation.

Public Reception to Cosby’s Release[3]

Cosby’s release and the realization that he can never be retried for crimes admitted to in sworn testimony resulted in mixed reviews from the public. The majority of voices came in union to abhor the judicial decision, stating that this decision will discourage sexual assault victims from coming forward in the future. Kevin Steele stated that Cosby went free due to a “procedural issue” that does not change the “facts of the crime.” The founder of Time’s Up, a group to support and empower victims of sex-crimes, stated that she was “furious to hear this news.”

However, not all public opinion detested the court’s decision. Cosby’s co-star on the “Cosby Show” tweeted in support of his release, stating that “[a] terrible wrong is being righted – a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”. Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, gave a statement indicating that she is “thrilled” that Cosby has been released, and added that Cosby “served three years of an unjust sentence and he did it with dignity and principle.”

This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito

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[1] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Henry Cosby, Jr., No. 39 MAP 2020, (Pa. June. 30, 2021).

[2] Id.

[3] Maryclaire Dale, Bill Cosby freed from prison, his sex conviction overturned, APNews (June 30, 2021), available at:

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