Bill Cosby wins right to fight sexual assault conviction

Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby has won the right to fight his sexual assault conviction in a decision that could test the legal framework of #MeToo cases.

Cosby, 82, has been in a Philadelphia prison for nearly two years after he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004.

He is serving a sentence of between three and 10 years after his conviction in 2018.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to review two aspects of the case.

The first refers to the judge’s decision to let prosecutors call five other accusers to testify at the sexual assault trial, and whether the jury should have heard evidence Cosby gave the sedative Quaaludes to women.

Cosby’s lawyers have long complained the women’s testimonies were unreliable.

The court will also examine Cosby’s argument that he had an agreement with a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in the case.

More from US

  • Black Lives Matter protests: Donald Trump threatens statue ‘anarchists’ with 10 years in jail

  • This man has been in prison for 33 years. A judge says he’s innocent – but that’s not enough to set him free

  • Trump administration’s reputation among traders takes a hit after adviser’s bombshell TV appearance

  • Paul Whelan: Former US marine jailed in Russia for spying will not be appealing against his 16-year sentence – lawyer

  • Reading terror attack: ‘They’re sipping margaritas’ – Victim’s dad says his son is now with his husband who died from cancer

  • Megan Fox defends dancing in bikini for Michael Bay aged 15 in resurfaced clip

Cosby says he relied on that agreement before agreeing to give evidence in Constand’s civil lawsuit.

The two aspects have been at the heart of the case since Cosby was charged in December 2015.

It came just days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.

Andrea Constand is seen leaving court during the 2018 trial
Image:Andrea Constand is seen leaving court during the 2018 trial

The time frame refers to the maximum amount of years that can have passed within which legal proceedings may be initiated.

Dozens came forward in the years that followed to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct.

Montgomery County Judge Steven 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 and other powerful men, 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 in #MeToo cases “flips constitutional jurisprudence on its head, and the ‘presumption of guilt,’ rather than the presumption of innocence, becomes the premise”.

However, the judge said he found “striking similarities” in the women’s descriptions of their encounters with Cosby, and that the testimony was therefore permissible to show evidence of a “signature crime”.

Cosby has been serving his sentence in a Philadelphia prison
Image:Cosby has been serving his sentence in a Philadelphia prison

Mr O’Neill wrote in a post-trial opinion: “In each instance, (he) met a substantially younger woman, gained her trust, invited her to a place where he was alone with her, provided her with a drink or drug, and sexually assaulted her once she was rendered incapacitated.

“These chilling similarities rendered (their) testimony admissible.”

Constand, who now does outreach work to help sex assault victims, asked the appeals court on Tuesday to not allow “Cosby’s wealth, fame and fortune to win an escape from his maleficent, malignant and downright criminal past”.

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”.

Mr Wyatt said in a statement: “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 colour in America.”

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *