Bill Cosby was once lauded as ‘America’s Dad’ when he starred as the comedic lead in The Cosby Show, however, his reputation quickly turned from loved to loathed after he was sentenced to up to ten years in jail following a conviction for sexual assault.
At the time, more than a dozen women had accused him of misconduct, with one of the cases making it to court. Andrea Constand was the only one of the thirteen accusers that didn’t remain anonymous.
Constand stated that she had been drugged and molested by Cosby at his home in 2004. The other 12 anonymous women agreed to be witnesses in court having documented similar incidents.
Cosby and his legal team dismissed the claims as “preposterous” and the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed fee. In 2013, however, Cosby planned a return to TV following a critically acclaimed stand up performance. It was at this point that victims’ stories which had been given to the media over the years, resurfaced in the press.
When the cases resurfaced as Cosby planned a national tour, over 50 women came forward with accusations of sexual assault or rape. Constand once again fronted the case and took it to criminal court.
A year into the trial, Cosby infamously responded to questions as to why he never spoke about the matter publicly, by saying “a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos.” Thereafter, however, a legal document came to light that seemed to show Cosby had admitted to obtaining Quaaludes in order to sedate women and have sex with them.
Previously, Constand had been unable to give a statement in court owing to the 2006 settlement, but when this ruling was overturned, she took to the stand for the first time in June 2017. Court papers show that she claims she was offered herbal pills by Cosby, only for them to turn out to be sedatives that left her basically paralysed.
She told the court: “In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move or my legs to move, but I was frozen,” Cosby then proceeded to assault her. “I wasn’t able to fight it in any way,” she told the court. “I wanted it to stop.”
This compelling statement is thought to have overturned a doubtful jury and resulted in a deadlock and a mistrial. At the retrial in 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement, the comedian was convicted within two days of three counts of sexual assault. For which, he was due to face three to ten years in jail.
Cosby has since served two years in jail until his sentence was overturned by Pennsylvania at an indeterminate point in the last few days and he was released from prison. The 79-page ruling put forward by the court stated: “He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred,” as they argued he had been trialled for a matter that had already been resolved in the 2005 ruling.
The other point of contention in his release was that other alleged victims were allowed to testify in his retrial under the proviso that they were not there as separate cases, but to provide a demonstration that there was a pattern to his offences. The legality of this was strongly argued against by his defence in the aftermath.
A statement from his lawyer upon his release has hinted that he may pursue damages. As defence lawyer Rikki Klieman declared, “He does not go back to being America’s Dad, everything that he lost in terms of the trappings of his life – his reputation, his TV jobs, his night club jobs, his being a spokesperson – all of that is gone.”
When Bill Cosby emerged from jail, he appeared to mime dodging bullets before making the peace gesture and tweeting: “I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence. Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Court for upholding the rule of the law.”
This was met with instant backlash as an alleged victim revealed she will move forward with a lawsuit that claims Cosby molested ger in the Playboy Mansion when she was just 15 years old. Further proceedings are yet to develop on this front.
However, others defend Cosby, including his old co-star Phylicia Rashard who said that a “terrible wrong has been righted.” His agent has also announced he plans to make his stand-up comeback in London.