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Bill Cosby Released From Prison, 10 Year Sentence Vacated

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby during his trial in 2017. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission, CC BY-SA 2.0

Bill Cosby, the 83-year-old comedian and television star who was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting former basketball player Andrea Costand, has been released from prison and had his sentence vacated on Wednesday.

Cosby, who first received attention as a stand-up comedian, transitioned to major success with the television shows Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and The Cosby Show, the latter of which was rated as the most watched show in the United States for four consecutive years between 1985 and 1989.

There had been allegations of drugging and sexual assault against Cosby for almost the entirety of his long career, but these incidents were largely covered up, stifled, or outright ignored whenever they were brought to journalists during the 20th century, when Cosby was at the peak of his fame.

In 1996, the Playboy Playmate known as Victoria attempted to publish a taped allegation but was refused by journalists. Actress Joan Tarshis also tried to tell her allegations to a freelance journalist who decided not to report on it.

Daytime talkshow host Wendy Williams said that in 1990, while hosting her former radio show, she talked about reading tabloid reports of the accusations against Cosby and he then attempted to have her fired.

It was not until the 2010’s that the history of the accusations became more widely known to the public. The spread of awareness of the story is largely credited to comedian Hannibal Buress, who began to incorporate the long history of accusations against Cosby into his stand-up comedy routine. After his 2014 show in Cosby’s hometown of Philadelphia  mentioning the allegations was reported on by Philadelphia magazine, the story quickly went viral and drew increased media attention.

Many more women stepped forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault in the mid-2010’s. A total of sixty women have made accusations against Cosby. On December 30, 2015, Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault against Constand, despite having settled with her outside of court in November of 2006.

He was charged because of statements contained in his 2005 deposition that were only seen for the first time in 2015 after a judge had unsealed the case. In 2018 Cosby was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in state prison.

Why Bill Cosby’s sentence was vacated today

The 2018 ruling against Cosby was vacated today after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had determined that Cosby’s due process rights had been violated. The panel of Pennsylvania State Supreme Court judges thought that the decision not to prosecute Cosby in 2005 in exchange for a deposition was unfair to him in his later trial. Cosby had already served three years in prison before he was released today.

Cosby’s accusers stepped forward to offer statements about his release. Valentino, Cosby’s accuser whose video allegation was previously refused publication, said that “For this to come out of left field is — it’s a gut punch, there’s no other way to describe it.

“What does that say about a woman’s worth? A woman’s value? Do our lives mean nothing? All of the lives that he damaged, I’m infuriated. I’m shaking.”

Costand, the former Temple University basketball player who had originally won the case against Cosby, also made her own statement about the release.

“Today’s majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action.”

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