Cosby Survivor Andrea Constand 'Disappointed' by His Overturned Sexual Assault Conviction
Andrea Constand's allegations against Bill Cosby had led to his 2018 conviction for sexual assault
Her testimony helped convince jurors in a Pennsylvania courtroom to convict Bill Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018.
On Wednesday, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned that conviction, citing what the prosecutor called "a procedural issue," Andrea Constand shared her disappointment.
"Today's majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action," said Constand, in a shared statement with her attorneys Dolores Troiani and Bebe Kivitz.
Constand, who pursued both avenues -- winning a $3.38 million civil settlement against Cosby in addition to the now-voided criminal conviction -- nonetheless said she was "grateful to those women who came forward to tell their stories," while she and her attorneys added, "we urge all victims to have their voices heard."
Constand was an administrator with the Temple University women's basketball team when she says Cosby, whom she considered to be a mentor, drugged and sexually assaulted her in his Elkins Park, Pa., home in 2004.
During Cosby's trial, Constand and five other women testified that he had engaged in a similar pattern of behavior with others. Cosby's defense denied the accusations, as well as similar allegations made against him outside the courtroom by more than 60 women. He was convicted and sentenced to serve three to 10 years in prison.
Constand first reported her ordeal to then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. in 2005, but Castor declined to bring criminal charges. Yet Castor's successor, Kevin Steele, did file charges against Cosby in 2015, arresting him days before the statute of limitations expired.
Castor told PEOPLE on Wednesday that he didn't feel he had enough evidence in 2005 to win a criminal case. But he said he reached an agreement with Cosby never to prosecute him if Cosby would testify for a deposition in a civil suit that Constand had filed against him.
In that deposition, Cosby admitted that he gave quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex, and also admitted to numerous extramarital affairs.
Steele eventually resurfaced that testimony to use against Cosby in the subsequent criminal trial.
In its judgment, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the decision to use Cosby's statements from his deposition against him deprived him of his Fifth Amendment rights. Cosby, the court stated, had been subject to "an unconstitutional 'coercive bait-and-switch,'" which the court characterized as a "due process violation."
The high court's decision erased the conviction, ordered Cosby set free, and prevents the prosecutor from refiling the criminal charges.
In their statement, Constand and her attorneys said: "On the one hand, the Court acknowledged that the former district attorney's decision not to prosecute Mr. Cosby was not a formal immunity agreement and constituted at best a unilateral exercise of prosecutorial discretion not to prosecute at the time, but nevertheless precluded a future prosecution, which included additional evidence dropped in the civil case."
But Constand and her attorneys said they "were not privy" to those discussions, and knew only that Castor had issued a news release that "had no meaning or significance to us" in regard to Castor's agreement not to pursue criminal charges.
"Once again," their statement said, "we remain grateful to those women who came forward to tell their stories, to D.A. Kevin Steele and the excellent prosecutors who achieved a conviction at trial, despite the ultimate outcome which resulted from a procedural technicality, and we urge all victims to have their voices heard."
Cosby, who served nearly three years in prison, had been denied parole only last month, due in part to his refusal to participate or complete a treatment program for sex offenders and violence prevention.
ABC News reports that two lower courts refused to overturn Cosby's conviction before the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
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.