US authorities released comedian Bill Cosby less than two hours after Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction, saying he should never have faced charges after he struck a plea agreement with a prosecutor nearly 15 years ago.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision came after Cosby had already served more than two years of a three- to 10-year prison sentence following his conviction in 2018.
The comedian was known as the beloved husband and father in the 1980s television comedy series The Cosby Show. However, his reputation was shattered after dozens of women accused him of sexual assault in incidents over several decades.
Cosby was convicted of sexually assaulting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his home in 2004 after she was drugged.
Constand’s allegations were the only charges against Cosby that did not have a statute of limitations while allowing criminal charges to be brought against him.
The majority of the court found that a representative of the prosecution had made an agreement with Cosby’s attorney in 2005 not to bring criminal charges against him. As a result, Cosby could not refuse to testify in a civil lawsuit brought against him by Constand, as the defendants could only do so in the face of a criminal trial.
In his sworn testimony, Cosby admitted to giving women sedatives to facilitate sexual encounters, but stated that it was consensual.
His confessions helped shape the rationale for criminal charges against Cosby in 2015, when a new prosecutor brought charges against him days before the statute of limitations expired.
But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the trial necessarily amounted to a violation of an earlier agreement with the prosecutor not to charge Cosby.