Supreme Court Declines to Consider Reinstating Bill Cosby's Sexual Assault Conviction

Prosecutors hoped SCOTUS justices would help undo the 2021 ruling that led to Cosby's release

Bill Cosby departs after a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Bill Cosby outside court in 2017. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

The Supreme Court determined Monday that it would not consider reinstating Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction, dealing a blow to prosecutors who hoped to put the accused sex offender back in prison.

Last June, Cosby was released from prison early when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made the controversial decision to vacate his conviction. The actor and comedian was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison in 2018 for sexually assaulting a former Temple University employee in his mansion in 2004 — one of many sex crimes he's been accused of committing during his decades-long career.

The Pennsylvania court's 2021 ruling had "nothing to do with guilt or innocence," Northeastern University Professor of Law and Criminal Justice Daniel Medwed previously told PEOPLE. "It's really more of a reaction to what I would consider a prosecutorial misstep."

In 2005, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor said that Cosby would not face criminal prosecution in former Temple employee Andrea Constand's case. With the understanding that he would not be prosecuted, Cosby admitted in a deposition in Constand's civil suit against Cosby, which was later settled, to giving quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex.

But Castor's successor, Kevin Steele, didn't honor the former DA's agreement with Cosby. Years later, he brought criminal charges against Cosby, using his private confession against him in court. That confession helped pave a path to conviction, raising questions about the constitutionality of Steele's actions.

In overturning Cosby's conviction, the Pennsylvania court concluded that Steele's disregard for his predecessor's agreement with Cosby was unconstitutional, and Cosby should never have been tried for that crime.

News that an admitted sex offender was freed from prison concerned sexual assault survivors, who worried that Cosby's release would have negative repercussions for future sexual assault cases.

Constand reacted to the 2021 ruling in a shared statement with her attorneys, saying: "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."

It was on these concerns that prosecutors hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would step in and reinstate Cosby's conviction, a hope cut short this week when the justices declined to review the case, thus letting last year's ruling stand.

In a statement shared with PEOPLE Monday, Cosby's spokesperson, Andrew Wyatt, expressed "sincere gratitude" to SCOTUS for "following the rules of the law."

"Mr. Cosby's Constitutional Rights were a 'reprehensible bait and switch' by Kevin Steele, Judge Steve T. O'Neill and their cohorts," Wyatt wrote. "This is truly a victory for Mr. Cosby but it shows that cheating will never get you far in life and the corruption that lies within Montgomery County District's Attorney Office has been brought to the center stage of the world."

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Brian Perry, an attorney for the 84-year-old celebrity, told PEOPLE in a statement that Cosby's trial "should never have been allowed in an American courtroom."

"This man served three years in a state penitentiary in a case where highest court in Pennsylvania, and now the United States, emphatically decided was unjust," Perry wrote. "Kevin Steele, the Montgomery County District Attorney, campaigned for the job on the promise to charge Mr. Cosby despite that fact that his predecessor made an agreement not to prosecute, and Mr. Cosby relied on that agreement to his detriment."

Constand and her legal team still aren't sure, calling the outcome "unfortunate" in a statement provided to PEOPLE.

"Not only does the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision stand to bind other courts based simply on an early press release by a prosecutor announcing a declination of prosecution at the time (before evidence to proceed is developed and vetted)," the statements reads, "but it assumes there was a valid agreement not to prosecute, which was vigorously disputed in the Habeas proceedings, and determined by the trial judge to not exist."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to

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