Why has Bill Cosby been released from prison? Does his conviction still stand and what does the future hold for him, in terms of future legal cases? Entertainment reporter K.J. Matthews teased out some of the issues over the phone from Los Angeles on Today with Claire Byrne.
Bill Cosby was convicted of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand in Pennsylvania in 2018 and sentenced to between three and ten years in prison. The conviction has been overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the 83-year-old actor is a now free man. Cosby's lawyers argued that a statement made back in 2005 was wrongly used in his 2018 criminal trial. (The statement was made during a civil trial which also involved Andrea Constand.)In his 2005 statement, Cosby admitted giving drugs to women he wanted to sleep with, but he maintains the women took the drugs willingly. During the 2018 criminal trial, the older statement was used in evidence. This has now been found to have violated Cosby’s rights, as K. J. Matthews explains:
"The problem with him being charged and ultimately convicted was that a lot of people didn’t realise was that the state D.A. the District Attorney during that time told him if he would come in and give a deposition about the particular case that was in front of him involving Andrea Constand under oath, that he would not be prosecuted, no matter what he said."
K.J. says the Pennsylvania Supreme Court took the view that the 2018 case should never have been taken, based on commitments given to Bill Cosby back in 2005:
"What the state Supreme Court said on Wednesday is that Bill Cosby should have never been prosecuted in the first place because of the deal that the District Attorney had made with him and his attorneys."
Claire asked about the woman at the centre of the case, Andrea Constand, and K. J. Matthews says she’s had a strong reaction to the news of Cosby’s release, and that she not alone:
"She released a statement saying she was surprised and she was angry. In addition to, remember, there were almost 60 women who ultimately came forward and accused Bill Cosby of having some sort of inappropriate touching or sexual assault or sexual harassment and being drugged against their will. Many of those women have gone on television today or released some sort of statement saying they just can’t believe they’re being re-victimised all over again with this latest ruling."
The Pennsylvania case is now dead, K.J. says, but several civil lawsuits in other states are in the offing:
"This criminal case is over. He will not be charged, nor will he go back to prison in the state of Pennsylvania. However, that does not mean that he’s out of the woods yet. He still has a number of civil lawsuits, one by the famous attorney Gloria Allred, here in Los Angeles."
On the criminal front, K.J. says states vary on the amount of time that can expire between the alleged offence and a trial. Some place a limit on this time, she says, but in others, like California, the time limit has been scrapped for rape:
"Remember a lot of this falls under the fact that the statute of limitations had run out in the state of Pennsylvania; not the case in certain other states. California most recently passed something saying that there is no statute of limitations when it comes to rape."
Bill Cosby denies all accusations of sexual assault.
K.J. also spoke about the state of Cosby’s health on his release, which many say has shown a marked improvement from previous reports. She also details the response of Hollywood Twitter, both for and against Cosby and the online backlash against some who have publicly supported him in the full interview with Claire Byrne below.