Having served just two years of his sentence for drugging and assaulting a Temple University student in 2004, Bill Cosby has been cleared for release from prison. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ruled to vacate the former actors’ 2018 conviction for that sexual assault, noting that an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented Cosby from being charged in the case, according to the AP.
“The discretion vested in our Commonwealth’s prosecutors, however vast, does not mean in that its exercise of is free of the constraints of due process,” the judges wrote in their opinion. Only one judge, Justice Thomas Saylor, dissented with the ruling, which focused on procedural issues stemming from a trial judge’s decision to let five additional accusers testify about the now-83-year-old’s predatory behavior during a second and aggressively covered trial.
Cosby has served just over two years in prison based on testimony from an original accuser, Andrea Constand, as well as five other women who were provided by prosecutors as “prior bad acts” witnesses. At the time of the trial, District Attorney Kevin Steele requested to bring on an additional 19 women who said they had been drugged and assaulted by the actor, a request that was denied. Regardless, Cosby was declared guilty on all counts of aggravated indecent assault in the fall of 2018, making his sentence one of the first tangible consequence the criminal justice system visited on men accused during the #MeToo movement. He was sentenced to serve between three and 10 years.
Throughout his trial and incarceration, Cosby insisted he was not guilty. In late 2019, he referred to the women’s testimony as a “set up” and his sentence a “politically motivated” conspiracy. This May, the Pennsylvania State Parole Board denied Cosby’s request for parole in part because the then-convicted rapist hadn’t participated in a “treatment program for sex offenders and violence prevention.”
As the AP notes, the decision to vacate following such a significant trial may make other prosecutors wary of pursuing similar cases.