Bill Cosby during “The Cosby Show” era. Photo courtesy of NBC.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The Philidelphia Supreme Court tossed out Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and said he couldn’t be tried again, freeing the comedian who helped spark the #MeToo movement after more than 60 women accused him of drugging and violating them. 

Cosby served nearly three years of his three-to-10 year sentence, though his reputation as the funny, fatherly figure he burnished in his sitcoms and stand-up took a beating: the conviction made watching reruns of “The Cosby Show,” once America’s most popular TV show, more cringeworthy than his multi-colored designer sweaters. 

The court ruled that the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge Cosby, 83. Bruce Castor, Montgomery County’s top prosecutor, made the agreement in the hopes the actor would testify in a lawsuit brought by Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand eventually settled wtih Cosby for $3 million.

Cosby was found guilty in 2018 for drugging and violating Constand in 2004 after dozens of women accused him in the media of the same behavior for decades, sparking conversations about the treatment of victims and why many of them prefered to stay silent for fear of retribution. Cosby called the sex between him and Constand consensual and maintained his innocence even as the chorus of women grew larger and louder

“I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence,” Cosby said in his first statement after his release. “Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal.”

Those fans chanted “Hey, Hey, Hey,” after Cosby’s TV show “Fat Albert,” where the comedian espoused life lessons amid jokes and pitches for Jello Pudding Pops. The supporters included Phylicia Rashad, who played his wife on the groundbreaking “Cosby Show,” which was hugely successful and the first to not only portray Black families in normal, even suburban situations, but also showed Black families could be rich and successful. Rashad tweeted “FINALLY” and “a terrible wrong is being righted.” The tweet earned her backlash from social media and a repudiation from Howard University, where she will act as the Dean of Fine Arts starting this fall. 

Cosby’s accusers lashed out against the ruling. Heidi Thomas called the decision a “gut punch” and said she forgave Cosby for raping her when she was 24 in 1984 but struggled to do the same against the “enablers.”

“We know he’s guilty, but as far as I’m concerned, as of today, the justices that have made this decision have just enabled a criminal to go without a consequence,” Thomas said. “What message is that sending to other victims? To other perpetrators? And this is one case, but the precedent they have just set is devastating.”

Indeed, other survivors echoed Thomas’ comments, stating that they hoped his freedom wouldn’t discourage other sexual assault victims from speaking out. 

“It is a discouraging message to sexual assault survivors,” said Patricia Leary Steuer, who accused Cosby of assault. “I hope it won’t, because in the end all you can do is come forward and tell the truth.”

Gloria Allred, the attorney who represented dozens of his accusers, warned Cosby that his legal troubles weren’t over, as she planned to bring a civil suit against him. 

Cosby’s attorney pleaded with the public to direct all the “angry energy” at his release against the prosecutors whose mistakes got him released. But the court of public opinion may not be as forgiving. His career may never return, as Netflix remained quiet on his unreleased comedy special filmed in 2014 just before his accusers began to emerge. And if “The Colbert Show” is any indication? Audience members booed at the news of his release. 

“Me Too,” Colbert muttered

MEDIA PERSPECTIVES

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

There’s One Man to Blame for Bill Cosby’s Release – New York Times – 7/1/2021
The court’s basis for its decision was a highly unusual 2005 news release by Bruce Castor, when he was district attorney for Montgomery County, Pa. Mr. Castor stated that he chose not to file criminal charges against Mr. Cosby because of “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.”

Bill Cosby’s Release From Prison Is Another Slap In The Face Of Sexual Assault Survivors – Blavity – 6/30/2021
Uninvited, he stuck his hand down my pants. I found myself in a moment reminiscent of sleep paralysis with a demon sitting atop and I could neither scream nor talk. Trauma has removed the parts of my brain that remember this day best, but I recall fake coughing uncontrollably until my friends were awakened. The roommate was gone before their eyes opened. I didn’t tell them a thing.

Bill Cosby will be released from prison. That doesn’t take away from the bravery of the women who stood up to him – Fortune – 7/1/2021
Today, I’m thinking about Andrea Constand. Beverly Johnson. Janice Dickinson. They’re among the 60 women who were brave enough to stand up to Bill Cosby.

Why The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Was Right To Toss Bill Cosby’s Tainted Conviction – The Federalist – 7/1/2021
Given the avalanche of allegations that the former actor and comedian drugged and then sexually assaulted scores of young women, Wednesday’s decision prompted outrage for many Americans. But, given the court’s ultimate ruling, Crosby was the one improperly crushed by the scales of justice.

Why Bill Cosby’s conviction was overturned – Associated Press – 7/1/2021
The split court found that Cosby was unfairly prosecuted because the previous district attorney had promised the comedian once known as “America’s Dad” that he wouldn’t be charged over Constand’s accusations. Cosby was charged by another prosecutor who claimed he wasn’t bound by that agreement.

Brace yourself for the Bill Cosby media redemption tour – Salon – 7/1/2021
Who knows which outlet will be the opening venue or which interviewer will serve as the emcee? Not I. But trust me when I say broadcast and cable TV newsrooms are probably falling all over themselves to book him as I type this.

Cosby’s release reveals the importance of MeToo—and the danger of its overreach – Newsweek – 7/1/2021
But what of the guilty man who deserves to be free not because he’s innocent, but because his prosecution was in violation of the the Bill of Rights?

What’s next for Bill Cosby after sex assault conviction overturned – Fox News – 7/1/2021
Now, leading legal expert Andrew Stoltmann, who is not involved in Cosby’s case, tells Fox News that there is a clear chance Cosby can turn the tables on the legal system and file his own grievance after serving two years of a three- to 10-year sentence for alleged sexual assault.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVES

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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