Cosby, 83, had served nearly three years of a three- to ten-year sentence after being convicted of drugging and raping Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand at her home in suburban Philadelphia. in 2004.
The former “Cosby Show” star was arrested in 2015, when a district attorney armed with newly revealed evidence, the damaging statement from the comic in a lawsuit filed by Ms. Constand, filed charges against her days before the deadline. 12-year prescription was about to start. without.
But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Wednesday that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was bound by his predecessor’s promise not to indict Cosby, although there was no evidence that the promise was made. do in writing.
Judge David Wecht, writing for a divided court, said Cosby had relied on the former district attorney’s decision not to press charges against him when the comedian gave his potentially incriminating testimony in Constand’s civil case.
The court called Cosby’s subsequent arrest “an affront to fundamental justice, particularly when it results in a criminal proceeding that was canceled for more than a decade.”
The judges said that overturning the conviction and prohibiting any further prosecution “is the only remedy that meets the reasonable expectations of society for its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”
He was quickly released from state prison in suburban Montgomery County on Wednesday and returned home without immediate comment.
His appeals attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said Cosby should never have been prosecuted. “District attorneys cannot change it simply because of political motivation,” he said, adding that Cosby is in excellent health as well as being legally blind.
In a statement, Steele said Cosby was released “on a procedural matter that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime.”
He praised Ms Constand for coming forward, adding: “My hope is that this decision will not hinder the reporting of sexual assault by victims … We still believe that no one is above the law, including the rich, famous and powerful.”
Constand and her attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
“FINALLY !!!! A terrible mistake is being corrected – a judicial error is being corrected!” actors Cosby Show her co-star Phylicia Rashad tweeted.
“I am furious to hear this news,” actress Amber Tamblyn, founder of Time’s Up, an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault, said on Twitter.
“I personally know women that this man drugged and raped while they were unconscious. Shame in court and this decision.”
In convicting Cosby, the trial judge had ruled him a sexually violent predator who could not be safely allowed out in public and needed to inform authorities for the rest of his life.
Four Supreme Court justices formed the majority that found in Cosby’s favor, while three others disagreed in whole or in part.
Peter Goldberger, a suburban Philadelphia attorney with criminal appeals experience, said prosecutors could ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for reconsideration or reconsideration, but it would be a long shot.
“I can’t imagine that with such a broad opinion, with a thoughtful concurring opinion and a thoughtful dissenting opinion, you can honestly say that they made a simple mistake that would change their mind if it was pointed out to them,” Goldberger said. saying.
Even though Cosby was charged only with the assault on Constand, the judge at his trial allowed five other accusers to testify that they, too, were similarly victimized by Cosby in the 1980s.
Prosecutors called them as witnesses to establish what they said was a pattern of behavior on Cosby’s part.
Cosby’s attorneys had argued on appeal that the use of the five additional accusers was inappropriate.
But Pennsylvania’s superior court did not weigh in on the issue, saying it was moot given the judges’ conclusion that Cosby shouldn’t have been prosecuted in the first place.
In May, Cosby was denied parole after refusing to participate in sex offender programs behind bars. He said he would resist treatment programs and refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing, even if it meant serving the full 10 years.
Prosecutors said Cosby repeatedly used his fame and family man persona to manipulate young women, posing as a mentor before betraying them.
The pioneering black actor grew up in public housing in Philadelphia and made an estimated $ 400 million fortune during his 50 years in the entertainment industry that included television shows. I see, I see, the Cosby show Y Albert Gordoalong with comedy albums and a multitude of television commercials.
The Philadelphia suburban prosecutor who originally investigated Constand’s allegations, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, found the case flawed because Constand waited a year to file and then stayed in contact with Cosby. Castor refused to prosecute and instead encouraged Constand to sue for damages.
Questioned under oath as part of that lawsuit, Cosby said he used to offer quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.
He eventually settled with Ms. Constand for $ 3.4 million.
Parts of the statement were later released at the request of The Associated Press and explained Cosby’s downfall, opening the floodgates to accusations from other women and destroying the reputation and career of a good comic book boy. More than 60 women came forward to say Cosby raped them.
The AP does not typically identify victims of sexual assault without their permission, which Ms. Constand has granted.
Cosby, in the statement, acknowledged giving a 19-year-old woman health care before having sex with her at a Las Vegas hotel in 1976. Cosby called the encounter consensual.
On Wednesday, the woman, Therese Serignese, now 64, said the court ruling “takes my breath away.”
“I just think it is a judicial error. It is a procedure. It is not about the truth of women,” he said. He said he took comfort in the fact that Cosby turned almost three years old: “That’s the best there is in America” for victims of sex crimes, he said.