Prosecutors have asked the highest court in the United States to restore the conviction of disgraced comic Bill Cosby, whose conviction on charges he drugged and raped a woman were overturned in a state court last year.
Cosby, a barrier-breaking comedian who became a household name for portraying the patriarch of an affluent Black family in the television series The Cosby Show, was found guilty in 2018 of drugging and raping college sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.
However, the conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in June and the 84-year-old was released from prison.
In a statement announcing the appeal to the Supreme Court, Kevin Steele, district attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, said the state court had erred in its decision, and urged the Court to hear the case.
“This decision as it stands will have far-reaching negative consequences beyond Montgomery County and Pennsylvania,” he said. “The US Supreme Court can right what we believe is a grievous wrong.”
While more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, he has only been tried criminally in Constand’s case, as the statute of limitation had expired for the other alleged victims. He became one of the most prominent people charged in the #MeToo era.
However, in June, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided with defence lawyers’ argument that testimony Cosby had given to authorities in a prior civil case was under a non-prosecution agreement, and therefore was unfairly used in the criminal case.
In the testimony, Cosby admitted to giving quaaludes, a now-banned party drug, to women with a view to having sex with them.
Steele said evidence of such an agreement was shaky, with Cosby only presenting a 2005 press release as evidence of the first prosecutor’s commitment not to prosecute him.
Steele said the decision merited appeal because it set a precedent “that prosecutors’ statements in press releases now seemingly create immunity”.
Cosby’s spokesperson called Steele “obsessed” with the actor and that he only wanted to please “the #MeToo mob”.
“This is a pathetic last-ditch effort that will not prevail. The Montgomery’s County’s DA’s fixation with Mr. Cosby is troubling to say the least,” spokesperson Andrew Wyatt said in a statement.
Cosby served more than two years of a three-to-10-year sentence for aggravated indecent assault and has always maintained his innocence.
Legal scholars and victim advocates will be watching closely to see if 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.