In a ruling that has been described as “surprising,” actor and comedian Bill Cosby will be released from prison. The once-beloved actor was sentenced to jail time in 2018 after he was convicted on charges of aggravated indecent assault. While he was sentenced to spend three to ten years in prison, he was ordered to be released effective immediately on Wednesday.
The ruling to release Cosby from prison and overturn his charges struck many commentators as shocking. Moreover, the court ruling also found that Cosby could not be tried for the charges stemming from the earlier cases again. The key in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s findings related to a plea deal Cosby reached with a former prosecutor in his case.
The case against Cosby was brought forward by Andrea Constand. She alleged that the now-83-year-old actor had drugged and assaulted her in her home in 2004. Five other women testified during Cosby’s trial that he’d engaged in similar behavior with them, drugging them before taking advantage of them.
Outside of the courtroom, an additional sixty women came forward and accused Cosby of similar misconduct against them. Constand issued a statement after Cosby was sentenced to time in prison, stating that she’d been “young and full of hope” at the time of the incident.
“Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward,” she wrote in the official document.
For his own part, Cosby’s defense team completely denied all of the allegations against the comedian. Cosby was denied parole last month for his refusal to take part in any treatment programs reserved for violence prevention within the prison.
Cosby’s release has been condemned as a “technicality” by some critics of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision. The court found that Cosby’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated because the prosecution in his criminal case used his sworn statements in a civil suit as evidence during the trial. The civil suit in question also involved Constand’s allegations, and Cosby had testified during those proceedings after reaching an agreement with Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor.
DA Castor came to an agreement with Cosby that held the DA’s office wouldn’t prosecute him for criminal charges relating to Constand’s allegations if he testified in the civil case. However, after Castor left his role as DA, his successors ignored this agreement and went after Cosby, using materials from the civil case as evidence in the criminal trial.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that this was a “bait and switch” that unfairly robbed Cosby of his Fifth Amendment rights. As such, they ordered him released from prison after he served over two years of his sentence.