Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated comedian Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and ordered that he be released from prison.
The state’s highest court ruled that Cosby was denied his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, NBC News reported.
The court said that when the prosecutor in an earlier case made the decision not to charge the now 83-year-old comedian, he opened the door for Cosby to speak freely during the process of a lawsuit against him.
“When an unconditional charging decision is made publicly and with the intent to induce action and reliance by the defendant, and when the defendant does so to his detriment (and in some instances upon the advice of counsel), denying the defendant the benefit of that decision is an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was foregone for more than a decade,” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote in its decision, according to NBC News.
“For these reasons, Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged,” the justices ruled.
It was not clear when the legendary comic would be released, NBC News reported.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is in receipt of today’s court decision,” a Department of Corrections spokesperson said. “Work is underway to complete the necessary paperwork, and Mr. Cosby will be released as soon as practical.”
Cosby was found guilty of three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault in a highly publicized jury trial in April of 2018 and sentenced to three to 10 years in prison in September of the same year.
The charges carried a maximum of 10 years each, but the judge opted to have the former actor’s sentences run concurrently, The New York Times reported.
Cosby was accused of drugging and raping former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia, FOX News reported.
Initially, the prosecutor didn’t pursue criminal charges against the beloved star of “The Cosby Show.” Constand sued him and settled the case for $3.4 million in 2005.
In the deposition for that case, Cosby admitted to giving women drugs and alcohol before consensual sex – statements that would come back to haunt him when Constand decided to go to the police more than 10 years later.
Numerous other women have made similar allegations since Constand came forward, but most of the alleged victims’ claims fell well outside the statute of limitations for those crimes, FOX News reported.
Cosby’s first trial ended in a mistrial. The second trial led to his conviction.
Ahead of the verdict, Cosby’s attorneys filed several motions that suggested they planned to appeal the ruling.
After the sentencing, they asked that their client be allowed to remain out on bail while he pursued an appeal.
However, the judge denied bail after the ruling, putting the octogenarian directly behind bars as soon as the hearing was finished, TMZ reported.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Cosby could not be retried on the same charges, according to NBC News.