Washington, Jun 30 (EFE).- A majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted Wednesday to overturn Bill Cosby’s 2018 conviction for sexual assault and order the 83-year-old entertainer’s release from the prison near Philadelphia where he has been serving a sentence of 3-10 years.
Cosby was expected to walk out of prison later Wednesday.
The man once known as “America’s Dad” for his role as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the 1984-1992 NBC television series “The Cosby Show” was found guilty of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand.
Constand said that during an early 2004 visit to Cosby’s mansion in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, he drugged her and penetrated her with his fingers while she was immobilized by the effect of the drug.
The conviction came at the end of a second trial after the initial proceeding ended with a hung jury.
The comedian met Constand in 2001 when she was working as an administrator with the Temple University women’s basketball team and Cosby, the school’s most famous alumnus, sat on the Philadelphia institution’s board of trustees.
In their ruling, the state Supreme Court found that the decision to bring criminal charges against Cosby in the Constand case violated a previous undertaking by prosecutors not to bring such charges.
The then-district attorney in Montgomery County, where the events took place, issued a press release in early 2005 stating that he had decided not to prosecute Cosby.
That prosecutor, Bruce Castor, said subsequently that his intent in ruling out criminal prosecution was to make it possible for Constand to compel testimony from Cosby in her civil suit against the entertainer.
Under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, a person can decline to testify to avoid self-incrimination. Cosby underwent several depositions and eventually reached an undisclosed settlement with Constand.
Similar allegations made against Cosby by more than 60 other women and the 2015 unsealing of the decade-old depositions in the civil suit led Castor’s successor to re-open the criminal case.
The content of the depositions was introduced as evidence in the criminal proceedings.
“We hold that, when a prosecutor makes an unconditional promise of non-prosecution, and when the defendant relies upon that guarantee to the detriment of his constitutional right not to testify, the principle of fundamental fairness that undergirds due process of law in our criminal justice system demands that the promise be enforced,” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said.
The ruling by the state’s highest court precludes a re-trial of Cosby in the Constand case, which first saw the first sexual assault conviction of a celebrity in the #MeToo era. EFE bpm/dr