Bill Cosby’s prosecutors ask Supreme Court to restore conviction
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Prosecutors on Monday asked the United States Supreme Court to restore Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, complaining that the verdict was overturned due to a questionable deal which the comic says , granted him lifetime immunity.
They said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Cosby’s conviction set a dangerous precedent by giving a press release the legal weight of an immunity deal.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele called the court ruling an “indefensible rule,” predicting a criminal appeals attack if allowed.
“This decision, as it stands, will have far-reaching negative consequences beyond Montgomery County and Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court of the United States can remedy what we believe to be a serious wrong, ”Steele wrote in the petition, which requests a review under the due process clause of the United States Constitution.
Cosby’s lawyers have long argued that he relied on a promise that he would never be charged when he gave damaging testimony in a civil action against an accuser in 2006. The confession was were then used against him in two criminal trials.
The only written evidence of such a promise is a 2005 press release from then-prosecutor Bruce Castor, who said he did not have enough evidence to stop Cosby.
The press release included an ambiguous “warning” that Castor “will reconsider this decision if necessary”. The parties have since spent years debating what this meant.
Steele’s offer to revive the business is a long plan. The United States Supreme Court accepts less than 1% of the applications it receives. At least four judges from the nine-member tribunal are expected to agree to hear the case. A decision is not expected for several months.
Castor’s successors, who gathered new evidence and arrested Cosby in 2015, doubt Castor ever made such a deal. Instead, they say Cosby had strategic reasons for making the deposition rather than relying on his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, even though it backfired when he “slipped” into his. disjointed testimony.
Cosby’s spokesperson on Monday called Steele “obsessed” with the actor and said his goal was to please “the MeToo crowd.” Defense lawyers have long said the case should never have gone to trial because of what they call a “no prosecution agreement.”
“This is a pathetic last-resort effort that will not prevail. The Montgomery County Attorney’s fixation with Mr. Cosby is troubling to say the least,” spokesman Andrew Wyatt said in a statement.
Cosby, 84, became the first celebrity convicted of sexual assault in the #MeToo era when the jury for his retrial in 2018 found him guilty of drugging and assaulting college athletic administrator Andrea Constand in 2004 .
He spent nearly three years in prison before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released him in June.
Lawyers and victim advocates will be watching closely if the court takes an interest in the high-profile #MeToo case.
Two court judges, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, were charged with sexual misconduct during their hotly contested confirmation hearings.
The appellate judges expressed very different views on the Cosby case. An intermediate state court upheld the conviction. Then the seven justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote three separate opinions on this matter.
The majority concluded that Cosby relied on the decision not to prosecute him when he admitted to giving a series of young women drugs and alcohol before sex. The court stopped before concluding that there was such a deal, but said Cosby believed there was – that trust, they said, tainted his conviction.
But prosecutors call this conclusion wrong. They note that Cosby’s lawyers vigorously objected to questions of testimony rather than allowing him to speak freely.
Cosby himself has never testified about a deal or promise. The only alleged participant to come forward is Castor, a political rival to Steele who went on to represent President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. Castor said he made the promise to a defense lawyer for Cosby, now deceased, and got nothing in return.
He never mentioned it to Senior Assistant Risa Ferman, who conducted her Cosby investigation.
She then became a district attorney and reopened the case in 2015 after a federal judge unsealed Cosby’s testimony.
In a remarkable preliminary hearing in February 2016, Castor spent hours testifying for the defense. He said he typed the press release himself, after office hours, and intended to convey different layers of meaning to lawyers, the press and the public.
The judge found him not credible and sent the case to court.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in its June 30 decision, called Cosby’s arrest “an affront to fundamental fairness.”
Weeks later, the ruling prompted the state attorney general to dismiss charges against a prison guard accused of sexually abusing inmates, due to an earlier deal with county prosecutors that the had let him resign rather than face charges.
Cosby, a revolutionary black actor and comedian, created the highest-ranked “Cosby Show” in the 1980s. A barrage of sexual assault allegations then destroyed his image as “America’s father” and led to multi-million dollar court settlements with at least eight women. But Constand was the only case to lead to criminal charges.
Five of them testified for the prosecution to substantiate Constand’s claims, testimony that Cosby’s lawyers also challenged on appeal. However, the state’s high court declined to address the thorny issue of how many other accusers can testify in criminal cases before the evidence becomes unfair to the defense.
In a recent briefConstand called the verdict less important than the growing support for survivors of sexual assault inspired by the #MeToo movement.
“The outcome of the trial seemed strangely unimportant. It was as if the world had changed again in a much more meaningful way, ”Constand wrote in the book“ The Moment ”.
Follow Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale.
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