A lawyer for Bill Cosby asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to reject a bid by prosecutors to revive his criminal sex assault case, six months after the disgraced comedian’s surprise release from prison.
The 84-year-old star of The Cosby Show has been free since June, when a Pennsylvania appeals court overturned his conviction and allowed him to walk out of prison after nearly three years.
The state’s highest court found that Cosby believed he had a non-prosecution agreement with a former district attorney when he gave damaging testimony in the accuser’s 2005 lawsuit. That testimony later led to his arrest in 2015.
Cosby lawyer Jennifer Bonjean says the case rests on a narrow set of facts that should not interest the nation’s highest court.
‘Notwithstanding the commonwealth’s warning of imminent catastrophic consequences, the Cosby holding will likely be confined to its own “rare, if not entirely unique” set of circumstances, making review by this court particularly unjustified,’ she wrote in the 15-page response filed Monday.
An attorney for Bill Cosby asked the US Supreme Court on Monday not to revive his sex assault case, saying it should not interest the nation’s highest court. Cosby is seen flashing the ‘V’ for victory sign after his surprise release from prison in June 2021
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney Kevin Steele’s attempt to revive the case is a long shot. The U.S. Supreme Court accepts fewer than 1 percent of the petitions it receives. At least four justices on the nine-member court would have to agree to hear the case.
The only written evidence of a non-prosecution promise is a 2005 news release from Bruce Castor, the district attorney at the time, who said he did not have enough evidence to arrest Cosby. Steele does not believe that amounts to an immunity agreement.
The release included an ambiguous ‘caution’ that Castor ‘will reconsider this decision should the need arise.’ The parties have since spent years debating what that meant.
Castor’s successors, who gathered new evidence and arrested Cosby in 2015, say it falls far short of a lifetime immunity agreement. They also doubt that Castor ever made such a deal.
Instead, they say Cosby had strategic reasons to give the deposition rather than invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, even if it backfired when ‘he slipped up’ in his rambling testimony.
However, defense lawyers say the case should never have gone to trial because of what they call a ‘non-prosecution agreement.’
Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned Cosby’s 2018 conviction after ruling that the actor he had a nonprosecution agreement with former DA Bruce Castor (left). Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele (right) in November asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court’s decision overturning Cosby’s conviction
Cosby, pictured leaving court in 2015, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, despite making self-incriminating statements in a deposition
A Pennsylvania jury in 2018 found Cosby guilty of drugging and molesting college sports administrator Andrea Constand (pictured) in 2004
Cosby became the first celebrity convicted of sexual assault in the #MeToo era when the jury at his 2018 retrial found him guilty of drugging and molesting college sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.
Appellate judges have voiced sharply different views of the Cosby case. An intermediate state court upheld the conviction. Then the seven justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote three separate opinions on it.
The majority found that Cosby relied on the decision not to prosecute him when he admitted giving a string of young women drugs and alcohol before sexual encounters. The court stopped short of finding that there was such an agreement, but said Cosby thought there was – that reliance, they said, marred his conviction.
But prosecutors call that conclusion flawed. They note that Cosby’s lawyers objected strenuously to the deposition questions rather than let him speak freely.
Cosby himself has never testified about any agreement or promise. The only alleged participant to come forward is Castor, a political rival of Steele´s who went on to represent former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. Castor said he made the promise to a now-dead defense lawyer for Cosby, and got nothing in return.
The story of Cosby’s rise and fall is the subject of the new docuseries We Need To Talk About Cosby, which premiered on Showtime on Sunday
He never mentioned it to top assistant Risa Ferman, who led his Cosby investigation.
She later became district attorney, and reopened the case in 2015 after a federal judge unsealed Cosby’s deposition.
At a remarkable pretrial hearing in February 2016, Castor spent hours testifying for the defense. He said he typed out the press release himself, after office hours, and intended it to convey different layers of meaning to the lawyers, the press and the public.
The judge found him not credible and sent the case to trial.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in its June 30 ruling, called Cosby´s arrest ‘an affront to fundamental fairness.’
Legal scholars and victim advocates will be watching closely to see whether the Supreme Court takes an interest in the case.
Two justices on the court, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, were accused of sexual misconduct during their bitterly fought confirmation hearings nearly 30 years apart.
Cosby, through his spokesman, slammed W Kamau Bell (pictured), who directed the four-part docuseries, as a ‘PR hack’
Cosby, a groundbreaking black actor and comedian, created the top-ranked Cosby Show in the 1980s. A barrage of sexual assault allegations later destroyed his image as ‘America’s Dad’ and led to multimillion-dollar court settlements with at least eight women. But Constand’s case was the only one to lead to criminal charges.
The story of Cosby’s rise and fall is the subject of the new docuseries We Need To Talk About Cosby, which premiered on Showtime on Sunday, earning rave reviews from critics.
Directed by standup comic and TV host W Kamau Bell, the four-part documentary grapples with Cosby’s complicated legacy, and features interviews with survivors, colleagues and cultural commentators.
In the days leading up to the docuseries’ release, Cosby, through his spokesman, slammed Bell as a ‘PR hack’ and stated that he ‘vehemently denies all allegations waged against him.’