Bill Cosby has been released from prison after his conviction on sexual assault charges was overturned by Pennsylvania’s highest court. The 83-year-old walked out of the State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Wednesday afternoon, according to ABC News.
Cosby was sentenced in September 2018 to three to 10 years in prison on three counts of aggravated assault for drugging and sexually assaulting former basketball player, Andrea Constand, in his home in 2004. The comedian and actor’s case was the first high-profile celebrity conviction of the #MeToo era which was initiated to raise awareness of sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace. Cosby also had several other women coming out to accuse him of sexual misconduct going back to almost 30 years. He was only tried criminally for the incident against Constand.
Cosby had served more than two years of his sentence when the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that he had been denied a fair trial in 2018. The judges said there was a “process violation” because Cosby’s lawyers had made an agreement with a previous state prosecutor that he would not be charged in the case. However, in 2015, a prosecutor filed charges after testimony from a civil lawsuit brought by Constand against the actor was disclosed, BBC reports.
“There is only one remedy that can completely restore Cosby to the status quo ante. He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred”, the 79-page finding reads. “We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here.”
The court also found that testimony from accusers unrelated to the case had “tainted” the trial. One accuser was called to testify in a first trial, however, five women testified in the second. According to the judges, it was not acceptable to hear testimony from the women who were not directly related to the case.
Gloria Allred, the women’s rights attorney who represents dozens of Cosby accusers, said in a statement to USA TODAY that “despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, this was an important fight for justice and even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby’s conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused.”
Cosby, once admired as “America’s Dad”, is well known for starring in the 1980s TV series The Cosby Show. Phylicia Rashad, who played his wife in the sitcom, wrote on Twitter: “A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”