Home Immunity How a 2005 immunity deal led to Bill Cosby’s release

How a 2005 immunity deal led to Bill Cosby’s release

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Bill Cosby released from prison Wednesday, appearing triumphant after serving an incomplete prison sentence for a sexual assault conviction that had just been overturned by Pennsylvania’s highest court.

A jury had found Cosby guilty in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at her home in suburban Philadelphia in 2004. Several other women have accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting them over the past decades, charges he has denied.

Appearing with him to reporters and supporters, spokesman Andrew Wyatt said Cosby had been “vindicated” and attempted to refute the charges against the 83-year-old comedian, saying he had always “used his fame” to raise women “. Cosby wrote on his Twitter page: “I never changed my position or my story. I have always maintained my innocence.

But good Wednesday’s decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court prohibits any future attempts to prosecute Cosby for the crime, this does not exonerate him. The decision is largely based on a questionable deal granted to him more than 10 years ago that granted him immunity from criminal prosecution – and a 2015 decision to abandon that deal, which the High Court said , deprived Cosby of due process.

Bill Cosby outside his home in Elkins Park, Pa. On Wednesday. (Matt Rourke / AP)

The deal was arranged by Bruce Castor, then a Montgomery County District Attorney, who investigated Constand’s charges in 2005 and determined that there was not enough evidence to launch a successful criminal prosecution. With that in mind, Castor decided to remove the threat of criminal prosecution for Cosby so that he could not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he were to testify in a civil trial, according to the court ruling. .

When Constand sued Cosby that same year, the comedian and his lawyers relied on that deal – which was more of an assurance, as it had not been formalized or written down – when Cosby sat for depositions. During depositions, adhering to the court ruling, he did not assert his Fifth Amendment right and confessed that he had provided Quaaludes to women he wished to have sex with in the past. Constand ultimately settled the lawsuit in 2006 for more than $ 3 million.

Castor, who was most recently known as former President Donald Trump’s attorney during his second impeachment trial this year, told Yahoo News on Thursday that providing Constand with a route to take civil action was his best option.

“What other choice did I have? ” He asked. “There wasn’t enough evidence to stop him. And the evidence of testimony did not exist. So what were my choices? I could not do anything. And then nothing would happen. Or I could try to get half a loaf and set up the board so that there is an incentive to settle the matter. “

Andrea Constand

Cosby’s accuser Andrea Constand in 2018 (David Maialetti / Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File)

The deal was the subject of further criticism after the court ruling on Wednesday, but Philadelphia lawyer Damian Jackson, a former prosecutor who has been following Cosby’s case closely, told Yahoo News he thought it was a good move.

“We have to realize that the climate for these types of cases in 2005 was very different from what it is now, and even in 2015 when they charged him it was still very difficult cases to deal with. continue, “Jackson said Thursday. “When we look at it through the lens of 2021, it’s a very different case, because now we understand these types of crimes better. [There’s] more sensitivity towards these types of crimes. So while it’s not a popular decision, I think it was a good decision.

Castor said it never occurred to him at the time that his successor would try to reverse his decision. But that’s exactly what happened in 2015, when Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, who is now a county judge, reopened the criminal investigation into Cosby after details of his 2005 civil settlement with Constand were released.

Castor told Yahoo News he tried to warn Ferman against continuing the case. “I sent a private memorandum to the district attorney’s office reminding them of what had happened 10 years ago and saying it was a bad idea to go ahead,” Castor said. “I thought that would be enough.”

But since no written agreement was provided to Ferman, she, along with her predecessor Kevin Steele, moved forward, using the evidence from the deposition. This culminated in Cosby’s conviction in April 2018.

Bruce Castor Jr.

Bruce Castor in February, following the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. (Alex Edelman / AFP via Getty Images)

When Cosby’s lawyers requested that the charges against him in the case be dismissed, the trial court concluded that, without an immunity agreement authorized, it did not apply. Cosby’s post-conviction appeals were also unsuccessful, and he was even denied parole in May, Reuters reported.

Although the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not challenge the trial court’s finding that the Castor Agreement was not a binding agreement and was rather a “quid pro quo”, it was not agree with the idea that Cosby and his lawyer should not have relied on this assurance. or somehow should have known better than to trust him. On the contrary, the court found that Cosby’s recourse to the agreement was “reasonable and that it resulted in the deprivation of a fundamental constitutional right when he was forced to [furnish] self-incriminating testimony.

Bill Cosby

Cosby leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. On April 26, 2018, following his conviction. (Matt Slocum / AP)

The district attorney’s decision to prosecute Cosby violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, the court said.

Jackson noted that the court’s ruling is about upholding the Constitution, not about proclaiming Cosby’s innocence. Castor expressed a similar point of view.

“There’s no way to think Cosby won,” Castor said. “He spent almost three years in prison, and [had] his reputation was ruined and had the anguish of two trials. So it was not a victory for him, it was a victory for people who, like me, believe in the rule of law.

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