Prosecutors asking the US Supreme Court to review a decision overturning Bill Cosby’s sentence argued in a plea Monday that the decision announced in a press release does not give the defendant lifelong immunity.
Prosecutors said the verdict could set a dangerous precedent if suspects plead guilty to closed-door deals. He also complained that the Chief Justice of the High Court of Pennsylvania misrepresented key facts of the case when he discussed the court’s decision to overturn Cosby’s sentence in a television interview.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele wrote in the petition, “The U.S. Supreme Court may correct what we believe to be a grave wrong, which seeks Supreme Court review under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Cosby’s lawyers have long argued that he relied on a promise that he would never be charged if an accused gave damaging testimony at a civil trial in 2006.
The admission was later used against him in two criminal trials.
The only written evidence of such a promise is a 2005 press release from then-prosecutor Bruce Castor, who said he did not have enough evidence to arrest Cosby.
The release included a vague “caution” that Castor would “reconsider this decision if necessary”. The parties have debated for years what this means.
Castor’s successor, who gathered new evidence and arrested Cosby in 2015, says it falls short of a lifetime immunity agreement. He also doubts that Castor ever made such a deal. Instead, they say Cosby had strategic reasons for making the statement rather than giving his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, even if he “slipped” in his belligerent testimony.
However, defense lawyers say the case should never be heard because they call it a “non-prosecution agreement.”
Cosby, 84, became the first celebrity to be convicted of sexual assault in the #MeToo era when a jury in their 2018 trial found him guilty of drugging and molesting college sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.
He spent nearly three years in prison before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released him in June.
Steele’s bid to revive the case is a long shot. The US Supreme Court accepts less than 1% of the petitions it receives. Legal scholars and victim advocates will be watching closely, however, to see if the court takes an interest in a high-profile #MeToo case.
Two of the court’s judges, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, were charged with sexual misconduct during their bitter confirmation hearing.
Cosby, a staunch black actor and comedian, produced the top-ranked Cosby Show in the 1980s. A flurry of sexual assault allegations later destroyed his image as America’s father and led to a multimillion-dollar court settlement with at least eight women. But Constand’s only case was one that led to criminal charges.
Five of them testified for prosecutors to support Constand’s claims, a testimony that Cosby’s attorneys also challenged on appeal. However, the state’s high court declined to address the thorny issue of how many other accused can testify in criminal cases before the evidence becomes inappropriate for defense.
In a recent memoir, Constand called the decision less important than the growing support for sexual assault survivors inspired by the #MeToo movement.
“The outcome of the trial seemed strangely insignificant. It was as if the world had shifted again to something more significant,” wrote Constand in a book called The Moment.