Advocates for Sex Assault Survivors Slam Court's Decision to Release Bill Cosby: 'Devastating'
Advocates for sex assault survivors slammed Wednesday's decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to release Bill Cosby from prison and overturn his sexual assault conviction.
Cosby, 83, was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 after Andrea Constand said he had drugged her and sexually assaulted her in his Elkins Park, Pa., home in 2004. He served more than two years of his three- to 10-year sentence, but he was released from prison today, the the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections confirmed on Twitter.
The court's decision hinged on an agreement Cosby had made with a previous Montgomery County, Pa., prosecutor not to file criminal charges against Cosby in exchange for his testimony in a civil suit brought by Constand. According to the court, that agreement should have precluded Cosby from facing criminal charges in Constand's case.
Angela Rose, the founder of Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, who stood by Constand in court in 2018 when Cosby was accused of assaulting her, called the court's decision "a travesty of justice" in a statement, adding that sexual violence is "already the most underreported crime."
"I want the survivors, of Bill Cosby and others, to know that their voice is celebrated," Rose tells PEOPLE. "No matter what happened today, it's so important to realize that their voices paved the way for the Me Too Movement and for so many other survivors to find their courage to speak out, especially against some of these high-profile, high-powered perpetrators. I know this is a devastating blow but I want all survivors to realize they are believed, they are heard and their voice matters."
In addition to overturning Cosby's conviction, the court held that "any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred."
During Cosby's trial, Constand and five other women testified that he had engaged in a similar pattern of behavior.
Cosby's defense denied the accusations, as well as similar allegations made against him by more than 60 women.
Gloria Allred, who represents 33 of Cosby's accusers, said in a statement after the court's decision, "This decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today to overturn the conviction of Bill Cosby must be devastating for Bill Cosby's accusers. My heart especially goes out to those who bravely testified in both of his criminal cases."
Allred added, "Despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision, this was an important fight for justice and even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby's conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused."
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If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.