Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for sentencing at his sexual assault trial, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on September 24, 2018.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
In a stunning decision that could test the legal framework of the #MeToo cases, comedian Bill Cosby earned the right to fight his 2018 sexual assault conviction in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Cosby, 82, has been jailed in the Philadelphia suburbs for almost two years after a jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004. He is serving a three to 10 year sentence.
The Supreme Court agreed to review two aspects of the case, including the judge’s decision to allow prosecutors to call five other accusers to testify about long-time encounters with the once-powerful actor and comedian. Cosby’s attorneys have long disputed that testimony as remote and unreliable. The court will also consider, as it weighs the scope of the testimony allowed, whether the jury should have heard evidence that Cosby had given quaalud to women in the past.
Second, the court will examine Cosby’s argument that he had an agreement with a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in the case. Cosby has said he trusted that agreement before agreeing to testify in the accuser’s civil lawsuit at the trial.
Those problems have been at the center of the case since Cosby was charged in December 2015, days before the 12-year state of limitations expired. Montgomery County prosecutors reopened the case that year after The Associated Press struggled to reveal parts of Cosby’s deposition testimony for a decade in the sexual assault and libel lawsuit by accuser Andrea Constand against Cosby, which he had resolved in 2006.
Dozens of other accusers had since come forward to accuse Cosby, long loved as “America’s dad” for his hit 1980s comedy of similar misconduct. Montgomery County Judge Stephen O’Neill allowed only one of them to testify in Cosby’s first trial in 2017, which ended with an acquittal.
But a year later, after the #MeToo movement exploded after reporting on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the judge allowed five other accusers to testify in the new trial. The jury convicted Cosby of the three serious crimes of sexual assault.
Attorney Brian W. Perry argued on appeal that allowing other prosecutors to testify “turns constitutional jurisprudence on its head, and” presumption of guilt, “rather than presumption of innocence, becomes the premise.”
Spokesman Andrew Wyatt said Cosby was “extremely grateful” that the court heard the case. He said the decision comes as protesters across the country protest the death of blacks at the hands of the police and expose “corruption within the criminal justice system.”
“As we have all said, Bill Cosby’s false conviction is much bigger than him: It is about the destruction of ALL black and colored people in the United States,” Wyatt said in a statement.
Cosby’s attorneys also questioned his classification as a sexually violent predator subject to life-long supervision. The actor, who insists he had a consensual meeting with prosecutor Constand, said he would never express remorse to the parole board.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who claim to have been victims of sexual assault without their permission, which Constand has granted.