Cosby prosecutors ask Supreme Court to restore conviction

PHILADELPHIA – Prosecutors have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to restore Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, complaining in a petition released Monday that the verdict was overturned over a questionable deal the comedian said gave him a 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 wave of criminal appeals if it remains legal.

“This decision, as it stands, will have far-reaching negative consequences beyond Montgomery County and Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court of the United States can correct what we believe to be a serious wrong, ”Steele wrote in the record, 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 on the request, filed Wednesday but made public only Monday, 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 called Steele “obsessed” with the actor and said he was only hoping 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 High Court ordered his release.

Lawyers and victim advocates will be watching closely if the Supreme Court takes an interest in the #MeToo case.

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 – and 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 spoke to his senior aide, who 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. The judge found him not credible and sent the case to court.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in its ruling, 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’s case was the only one to lead to criminal charges.

Five of Cosby’s accusers have testified for the prosecution to support Constand’s claims, testimony that Cosby’s lawyers also challenged on appeal. However, the state’s high court declined to address the thorny question of how many more accusers should be allowed to testify in a criminal case before the testimony becomes exaggerated.

In a recent brief, Constand 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 ”.

The Associated Press generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault unless they speak publicly, as Constand did.

Cheryl Carmel, who served as jury chair in Cosby’s retrial, said she was happy to see Steele ask for the review.

“I firmly believe that what we decided was correct, otherwise I would not have made this decision… with the group. To have him knocked down because of something that was outside of the facts of what we were given is disappointing, ”Carmel told the AP on Monday.

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Follow Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale.



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