Bill Cosby is granted appeal in 2018 Pennsylvania sexual assault conviction in decision that could test the legal framework of #MeToo cases
- Cosby, 82, is serving three to 10 years in prison on the 2018 conviction
- He was found guilty of drugging and assaulting woman in his home in 2004
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeal on two key issues
- One examines whether other women should have been allowed to testify
- Five women testified at trial about misconduct unrelated to the criminal charge
- Cosby lawyer says legal victory is a win for Black Lives Matter movement
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Bill Cosby, 82, is currently serving three to 10 years in prison for sexual assault
In a stunning decision that could test the legal framework of #MeToo cases, comedian Bill Cosby has won the right to fight his 2018 sexual assault conviction in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The 82-year-old Cosby has been imprisoned in suburban Philadelphia for nearly two years after a jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004. He’s serving a three- to 10-year sentence.
The Supreme Court has agreed to review two aspects of the case, including the judge’s decision to let prosecutors call five other accusers to testify about long-ago encounters with the once-powerful actor and comedian.
Cosby’s lawyers have long challenged that testimony as remote and unreliable. The court will also consider, as it weighs the scope of the testimony allowed, whether the jury should have heard evidence that Cosby had given quaaludes to women in the past.
Bill Cosby is taken out of the Montgomery County Courthouse to state prison in shackles after being sentenced to prison for a sexual assault conviction in 2018
Secondly, the court will examine Cosby’s argument that he had an agreement with a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in the case. Cosby has said he relied on that agreement before agreeing to testify in the trial accuser’s civil lawsuit.
Those issues have been at the heart of the case since Cosby was charged in December 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.
Prosecutors in Montgomery County had reopened the case that year after The Associated Press fought to unseal portions of Cosby’s decade-old deposition testimony in accuser Andrea Constand’s sex assault and defamation lawsuit against Cosby, which he had settled in 2006.
Dozens of other accusers had come forward since then to accuse Cosby, long beloved as ‘America’s Dad’ because of his hit 1980s sitcom, of similar misconduct.
The criminal case against Cosby centered on the allegations of Andrea Constand (above) but five other women were allowed to testify about separate encounters with Cosby
Montgomery County Judge Stephen O’Neill allowed just one of them to testify at Cosby’s first trial in 2017, which ended with an acquittal.
But a year later, after the #MeToo movement exploded in the wake of reporting on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the judge allowed five other accusers to testify at the retrial. The jury convicted Cosby on all three felony sex-assault counts.
Lawyer Brian W. Perry argued in the appeal that letting other accusers testify ‘flips constitutional jurisprudence on its head, and the `presumption of guilt,´ rather than the presumption of innocence, becomes the premise.’
Spokesman Andrew Wyatt said Cosby was ‘extremely thankful’ the court would hear the case.
He said the decision comes as demonstrators across the nation protest the death of black people at the hands of police and expose the ‘corruption that lies within the criminal justice system.’
‘As we have all stated, the false conviction of Bill Cosby is so much bigger than him – it’s about the destruction of ALL Black people and people of color in America,’ Wyatt said in a statement.
Cosby arrives with his wife, Camille, for his sexual assault trial in 2018
Cosby´s lawyers also challenged his classification as a sexually violent predator subject to lifetime supervision. The actor, who insists he had a consensual encounter with accuser Constand, has said he would never express remorse to the parole board.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been victims of sexual assault without their permission, which Constand has granted.
Cosby was denied early release from prison despite a COVID-19 outbreak inside the facility where he is housed.
In April, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf revealed a plan to ‘temporarily relieve’ at-risk inmates in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus behind bars.
The announcement sparked speculation that Cosby could be freed, but the state’s Department of Corrections crushed any hope for the elderly star.
‘Sex offenders are not eligible under the reprieve criteria,’ a department spokesperson bluntly told the media.