In a significant legal victory for Bill Cosby, the state Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear the appeal of his 2018 conviction on charges of indecent aggravated assault.
The court said it will allow the appeal on two specific issues.
The first is regarding the so-called prior bad acts witnesses. Cosby’s attorneys argued that six additional women were unlawfully allowed to testify against him based on unproven and uncharged allegations from decades earlier. The women claimed Cosby had provided them quaaludes, which prosecutors claimed to fit a specific pattern of behavior exhibited by the comedian. District Attorney Kevin Steele claimed that Cosby had a habit of drugging and assaulting women.
Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault after Steele filed charges in 2014. Those charges stemmed from accusations made by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who said Cosby drugged her in 2003 or 2004 and then placed his hands inside her pants.
Constand, who under cross-examination admitted a long-term relationship with Cosby, was allegedly provided two Benadryl tablets from Cosby, which Constand claimed paralyzed her.
Cosby’s team and police reports indicated that Cosby and Constand had an affair that included petting and kissing. Both admitted that they never engaged in intercourse. The two later settled a civil case for nearly $4 million.
Cosby has languished in a Pennsylvania prison since September 2018, serving a 3-to-10-year sentence. The state appellate court denied his earlier requests for relief. The state’s highest court routinely denies hearing cases, particularly sexual assault cases, but the panel has now agreed to hear Cosby.
The judges cited the “unduly remote in time in that the allegations were more than 15 years old and, in some instances, dated back to the 1970s.” The court also cited Cosby’s attorney’s plea that the prior bad act allegations lacked “any striking similarities or close factual nexus to the conduct for which Cosby was on trial.” They argued that the Appellate Court erred in affirming the admission of such evidence.
The state Supreme Court also cited Cosby’s lawyer’s argument that former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor promised Cosby that he would never be charged with any crime related to the Constand matter.
In exchange, the comedian waived his fifth amendment rights and testified in a civil deposition related to his relationship with Constand.
The attorneys said the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office had even issued a formal public statement reflecting that agreement.
Castor, who lost his reelection bid to Steele in 2014, previously told Black Press USA that Cosby was “being illegally prosecuted.”
“I can’t stand silent while the [current prosecutor] breaks a solid agreement and break the oath of this office,” Castor said.
The Supreme Court did not issue a hearing date, and it wasn’t immediately clear if Cosby would now be eligible for bail.
“We’re extremely thankful to the State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for agreeing to review Mr. Cosby’s appeal,” Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said in a statement. “America and the world are witnessing the 23rd day of protests regarding the abuse and murder of Black people, not just at the hands of corrupt police officers; but these extremely vital and important protests are exposing the corruption that lies within the criminal justice system (District Attorneys & Judges). 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. We’re extremely thankful to our attorneys Brain Perry, Jennifer Bonjean and Barbara Zemlock for their tenacious efforts in fighting for the vindication of Mr. Cosby. ”