Bill Cosby has been released from prison following a successful petition to the court to have his conviction overturned. In 2018, he was criminally convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison. Despite being widely celebrated as a victory in the global #MeToo movement, the conviction was somewhat controversial as it came as the result of testimony that Cosby gave in a civil case on the condition that he would not be charged criminally.
In 2005, the actor’s wholesome “America’s dad” image was torn apart when Andrea Constand accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her at his home. At the time, other women came forward and testified that they had had similar experiences of abuse and assault at the hands of Cosby. However, Andrea’s experience was the only one used in criminal charges.
Andrea took him to court in a civil trial, and to avoid a public trial, Cosby paid a multi-million-dollar settlement. As the defendant in a civil trial, Cosby had the option to refuse to give testimony to avoid self-incrimination. The state prosecutor at the time, Bruce Castor, felt there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him criminally and offered Cosby a deal. By accepting the deal and agreeing to give a sworn deposition admitting to the allegations made by Constand, Cosby was assured that Castor wouldn’t charge him criminally.
However, this backfired for Cosby as district attorney Kevin Steele was able to use that deposition to charge Cosby with a criminal offence in 2015, a few days before the statute of limitations for the charges would expire. Cosby was convicted and sent to prison.
Since his conviction, Cosby’s legal team filed an appeal to the court to have the decision overturned, as it was based on evidence that had been obtained through a deal that prevented prosecution. The appeal was successful, and just 2 hours after the court overturned his conviction, Bill Cosby was released and returned home.
Following his release, there has been a mass backlash against the judicial system and the court that overturned the conviction. Women and supporters of the #MeToo movement have spoken out against the ruling. They claim it undermines all the work that has been done to bring justice for those who have been sexually assaulted and making perpetrators accountable for their actions. Others argue that the truth came out, and even though he is no longer in jail, Cosby’s life, career, and reputation have been ruined.