PHILADELPHIA (AP) – In a stunning decision that could test the legal framework of # MeToo cases, comedian Bill Cosby has won the right to challenge his 2018 sexual assault conviction in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Cosby, 82, has been in the Philadelphia suburb for nearly two years, after a jury convicted him in 2004 of drugging and sexually abusing a woman at his home. He is serving a prison sentence of three to ten years.
The Supreme Court has agreed to review two aspects of the case, including the judge’s decision to have prosecutors call five other prosecutors to testify about long-time encounters with the once-powerful actor and comedian. Cosby’s lawyers have long disputed that testimony as remote and untrustworthy. The court also considers, as it weighs the size of the allowable testimony, whether the jury should have heard that Cosby had quaaluded women in the past.
Second, the court will investigate Cosby’s argument that he entered into an agreement with a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in the case. Cosby has said he relied on that agreement before agreeing to testify in the civil suit.
Those issues have been at the heart of the matter since Cosby was sued in December 2015, days before the 12-year limitation period had passed. Prosecutors in Montgomery County reopened the case that year after The Associated Press fought to reveal parts of Cosby’s ten-year-old testimony in Andrea Constand’s sexual assault and defamation suit against Cosby, which he settled in 2006.
Dozens of other prosecutors had since come forward to accuse Cosby, long loved as “America’s Dad” for his successful 80s sitcom, of similar misconduct. Montgomery County judge Stephen O’Neill allowed only one of them to testify during Cosby’s first lawsuit in 2017, which ended with an acquittal.
But a year later, after the #MeToo movement exploded in the aftermath of reporting on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the judge allowed five other prosecutors to testify at the trial. The jury convicted Cosby on all three crimes of sexual abuse.
Lawyer Brian W. Perry argued on appeal that having other prosecutors hired “turns constitutional case law on its head and” suspecting guilt “instead of presuming innocence becomes the starting point.”
Spokesman Andrew Wyatt said Cosby was “extremely grateful” that the court would hear the case. He said the decision will come when protesters across the country protest the death of black people at the hands of the police and expose “corruption within the criminal justice system”.
“As we have all said, Bill Cosby’s false belief is so much bigger than he is – it is about destroying ALL black people and colored people in America,” Wyatt said in a statement.
Cosby’s lawyers also contested his classification as a sexually violent predator under lifelong supervision. The actor, who maintains he has had a consensual meeting with Prosecutor Constand, has said he will never regret the parole board.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been victims of sexual assault without their consent, which Constand has granted.
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