In an astonishing decision that could test the legal framework for #MeToo cases, the highest court in Pennsylvanias said it would revise the court ruling to let five other accusers testify at the 2018 Bill Cosbys sexual assault trial, which ended with the long-standing sentencing of television stars.
Cosby, 82, has been imprisoned in the Philadelphia suburbs for almost two years after a jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at her home in 2004. He is serving a sentence of three to ten years.
The state Supreme Court has agreed to review two aspects of the case, including the judges’ decision to let prosecutors call the other accusers to testify to the long-standing meetings with the actor and comedian. Cosbys’ lawyers have long complained that the testimony was distant and unreliable.
The court will also consider, to the extent that it assesses the scope of the evidence admitted, whether the jury should have heard the testimony of Cosbys’ deposition on obtaining quaaludes to be given to women in the past.
Second, the court will consider Cosbys’ argument that he had reached an agreement with a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in the case. Cosby stated that he relied on the alleged promise before agreeing to give the trial evidence to accuser Andrea Constands.
These questions have been at the heart of the case since Cosby was charged in December 2015, a few days before the expiration of the 12-year limitation period.
Prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia reopened the case that year after the Associated Press fought to unseal portions of Cosbys ’10-year testimony in Constands’ sexual assault and defamation trial. Cosby paid $ 3.4 million to settle the lawsuit in 2006.
Cosby, in the deposition, recognized a chain of extramarital affairs. He called them consensual, but many women say they were drugged and assaulted.
Dozens came forward in the years that followed to accuse Cosby, long loved as the papa of the Americas because of his successful 1980s sitcom, of sexual misconduct. Montgomery County judge Steven ONeill only allowed one of them to testify at Cosbys’ first trial in 2017, which ended in trial.
But a year later, after the #MeToo movement exploded following reports of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men, the judge allowed five other accusers to testify at the new trial. The jury found Cosby guilty of the three counts of serious sexual assault.
Lawyer Brian W. Perry argued in the appeal that allowing other accusers to testify in the #MeToo cases overturned constitutional jurisprudence and that the presumption of guilt, rather than the presumption of innocence, became the premise.
However, the judge said he found striking similarities in the women’s descriptions of their meetings with Cosby, and said that the testimony was therefore allowed to show evidence of a signature crime.
In each case, [he] met a much younger woman, gained her trust, invited her to a place where he was alone with her, provided her with a drink or drugs and sexually assaulted her after being hit of incapacity, wrote ONeill in a post-trial notice. These frightening similarities rendered [their] admissible testimony.
Spokesman Andrew Wyatt said Tuesday the move comes as protesters across the country protest the death of blacks at the hands of police and speak out against corruption in the criminal justice system.
Bill Cosby’s false conviction is so much bigger than him about the destruction of ALL blacks and people of color in America, Wyatt said in a statement.
Constand, a former professional basketball player who is now speaking to victims of sexual assault, asked the court of appeal on Tuesday not to allow Cosbys’ wealth, fame and fortune to escape his evil, evil and downright criminal past.
Asked about the meeting with her during the 2006 deposition, Cosby described being on his couch and putting his hand on his pants after giving him three pills which he identified as Benadryl. Constand said they passed out.
I don’t hear him say anything. And I don’t feel her saying anything. And so I continue and I enter the area between permission and rejection. I haven’t been arrested, he said.
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Legal experts have said that the appellate review could help clarify when judges should allow prior testimony of wrongdoers from other accusers in sex crimes cases, at least in Pennsylvania, and if an alleged promise Verbal counsel should bind their successor.
I think Cosby still has a tough battle. The good news is that the state Supreme Court will hear the appeal, said Laurie Levenson, professor at Loyola Law School.
The PA generally does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted without their permission, which Constand has granted.
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