News & Politics

BREAKING: Bill Cosby's Conviction Overturned by Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Bill Cosby arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the conviction of America’s favorite dad, Bill Cosby, who was jailed perhaps falsely during the #MeToo hysteria that gripped the country a few years ago. The AP has the report:

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and opened the way for his immediate release from prison Wednesday in a stunning reversal of fortune for the comedian once known as “America’s Dad,” ruling that the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge Cosby.

Cosby, 83, has served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence after being found guilty of drugging and violating Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era.

But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby. There was no evidence that promise was ever put in writing.

Justice David Wecht, writing for a split court, said Cosby had relied on the former prosecutor’s decision not to charge him when the comedian later gave his potentially incriminating testimony in the Constand’s civil case.

The court said that overturning the conviction, and barring any further prosecution, “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”

The case has a long and confusing timeline, but it began with an accusation in 2005, a whole year after the alleged incident occurred. Andrea Constand went to police a year after she said Cosby drugged and raped her. That investigation found there was “insufficient credible admissible evidence,” and the case was dropped.

Constand then took the case to civil court in 2005, and Cosby settled with her for $3.8 million. He admitted to giving his dates quaaludes but said it was consensual drug use and consensual sex.

“When you got the quaaludes,” asked Dolores M. Troiani, the lawyer for Ms. Constand, “was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?”
Mr. Cosby replied, “Yes.”
In the records, Mr. Cosby, now 77, did not admit drugging unwitting women. When asked if the women had known they were taking the quaaludes, Mr. Cosby’s lawyer abruptly cut off the questioning. And Mr. Cosby suggested in his answers that the pill taking and sex had been consensual.

In 2017, the #MeToo movement was boiling over and 30-year-old accusations were flying at lots of powerful men, but the Cosby case arguably got the ball rolling. Many of the accusations did not come with any evidence that could be used in court. Despite the lack of evidence, the country was urged to just #BelieveWomen as if women—by nature of our genitalia—are pure as the wind-driven snow and have no propensity to lie for profit. Many innocent men were harmed by the hysteria that resembled the Salem witch trials. Some guilty ones got caught, too, but one must ask if it was worth it to besmirch the reputations of people who could not defend themselves. One particularly egregious smearing was that of Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford. It was an epic spectacle full of sound and fury signifying nothing but the end of due process in America. I was so inspired by the heinous miscarriage of justice that I wrote a book about it called “Believe Evidence: The Death of Due Process From Salome to #MeToo,” which detailed many confirmed instances of women lying throughout history to imprison or kill innocent men. I sounded the alarm bell that we should never just #BelieveWomen as a rule or we would be throwing out the basis for justice in America: innocent until proven guilty. I even went on Tucker Carlson’s show and warned him not to believe all women. It’s a trap!

With the #MeToo movement in full swing and no one listening to voices of reason (like mine), Bill Cosby was arrested in 2017, days before the statute of limitations would have run out on Constand’s claims. The first trial resulted in a mistrial. The prosecution decided to try again in 2018, this time bringing in five more women to make unsubstantiated claims against the comedian. It’s important to note that none of them had ever gone to the police at the time of the alleged assaults or at any time after that. Constand was the only alleged victim who did go to the police–and, again, not until a year after the incident.

This new trial with the new witnesses offering testimony with no physical evidence resulted in a guilty verdict and jail time. Cosby’s attorneys appealed and now the Supreme Court of PA has overturned the conviction. I don’t know if Bill Cosby is guilty of these crimes. Neither does anyone else. That’s called a “reasonable doubt,” and you cannot take a man’s life and liberty away from him if there is any doubt that he might be innocent. That a jury found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt with no physical evidence is hard to believe. The first mistrial should have been the clue the prosecution needed to see that this was a bad case to try. In 1769, William Blackstone wrote that “the law holds that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that 1 innocent suffer.” This has always been an American philosophy on justice that we say we believe. But #MeToo did more damage to our justice system than any other movement I’ve seen in my lifetime by trampling all over the long-held belief of the importance of innocence until proven guilty. It’s time to reverse course and go back to the highest standard of proof. And if the claims can’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, then it is the law that the accused be set free.

Perhaps Bill Cosby is guilty. But “perhaps” is not enough to convict, and if you are ever accused of a crime you’ll be glad to have that standard applied to you. If he is guilty, it’s a hard lesson for the victims–but one that needs to be widely discussed. In my book, I have a chapter called “How to Harpyproof Your Daughter” in which I provide real tips on how to make sure your daughter doesn’t grow up to be either a victim or a false accuser. After good advice on how not to be a victim in the first place by training in self-defense and the proper use of firearms, I offer advice on seeking justice. Victims of sexual assault need to do certain things in order to get a conviction in a court of law. We must stop pretending like victims should get a pass if they don’t follow the steps available to them to get justice. There was a time in this country when a woman who reported a sexual assault ran the risk of not being believed, but that was then and this is now. And today, our justice system has clear guidelines on sexual assault and how to prosecute it. You can’t lock up someone without hard evidence. So if you want your attacker punished, follow these simple steps as outlined in my book:

  • Fight like hell to get away, and, if that fails, try to scratch and claw at the attacker to preserve DNA under fingernails
  • After an assault, the very first thing to do is get to a safe place then call police and parents
  • Do not shower or change clothes or even wash hands. Evidence must be preserved.
  • Get to a hospital for a rape kit as soon as possible.
  • Do not be afraid to name the attacker if he is familiar. It’s tough to imagine that a relative or someone close to the family could be a rapist but it happens frequently. Over 70% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Make sure your daughter knows she can tell you anything.
  • Make sure you tell her that if she does not come forward, every day she waits is another day further away from justice until the day comes when justice cannot be had. Don’t wait for that day. Do it now. The only way women will overcome sexual assault is to become bold and courageous, and the only place to learn that is in the home. Parents, it is your job to keep your daughters from becoming victims—or victimizers. And what a tough job it is.

Many people are going to be unhappy with today’s ruling, but I think it’s a good day for due process and a great opportunity to have these tough discussions with our children about what to do when one is a victim of a crime. Have that talk now if you haven’t already.

Related: Don’t Cancel Cyber Bully Chrissy Teigen. Sue Her!