PHILADELPHIA — Bill Cosby has been released from prison on Wednesday after Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out his sexual assault conviction. According to the court’s ruling, the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge him, AP News reported.
The 83-year-old actor/comedian served nearly three years of a three- to 10-year sentence after being found guilty of drugging and violating Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
Cosby was arrested in 2015, when a district attorney armed with newly unsealed evidence from a damaging civil deposition, brought charges against him days before the 12-year statute of limitations ran out.
However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to charge Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to pursue prosecution, even though there was no written agreement in place.
Writing for a split court, Justice David Wecht said Cosby had relied on the former district attorney’s decision not to charge him when he gave incriminating testimony in one of the victim’s civil cases.
The justices said that overturning the conviction, and barring any further prosecution, “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.” Moreover, the court called the arrest, “an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was forgone for more than a decade.”
The AP reported that four justices formed the majority that ruled in Cosby’s favor, while three dissented in whole or in part.