Pennsylvania DA Appeals Bill Cosby Ruling to U.S. Supreme Court

Bill Cosby

Kevin Steele, the district attorney from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, who put Bill Cosby in prison in 2018, has filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the disgraced comedian’s conviction. Cosby was released from prison on June 30 after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that former prosecutor Bruce Castor’s decision not to prosecute Cosby in 2005 should have prevented him from being charged by a successor D.A. in 2015.

In the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Steele’s office called the Pennsylvania court’s ruling “a dangerous precedent.”

“A prosecution announcement not to file charges should not trigger due process protections against future criminal proceedings because circumstances could change, including new incriminating statements by the accused,” the prosecutor’s office argued.

Cosby, 84, was convicted in 2018 and was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia home in 2004. He served nearly three years of his sentence before his June release.

The D.A.’s petition to the Supreme Court argues that the Pennsylvania ruling raises issues under the Constitution’s due process clause. In a press release accompanying the filing, Steele argues: “The question presented to the Court is: ‘Where a prosecutor publicly announces that he will not file criminal charges based on lack of evidence, does the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment transform that announcement into a binding promise that no charges will ever be filed, a promise that the target may rely on as if it were a grant of immunity?'”

Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, issued a statement blasting the prosecutor’s office for asking the Supreme Court to “throw the Constitution out the window.”

“There is no merit to the DA’s request which centers on the unique facts of the Cosby case and has no impact on important federal questions of law,” Wyatt said. “This is a pathetic last-ditch effort that will not prevail. The Montgomery County’s DA’s fixation with Mr. Cosby is troubling to say the least.”

Constand reported the assault to police in January 2005. A month later, the then Montgomery County District Attorney, Castor, issued a press release stating that his office had decided not to file charges in the case.

Cosby then gave deposition testimony in a civil lawsuit Constand had filed, in which he acknowledged giving Quaaludes to other women. Constand eventually settled the suit for $3.38 million. In 2014, dozens of women — some of whom had accused him for years — came forward with similar allegations to Constand’s that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them.

Steele was elected district attorney in 2015, having criticized Castor’s handling of the case during his campaign. Cosby was charged in December 2015. Cosby’s attorneys argued at the time that Steele’s office had ignored Castor’s promise not to prosecute. They also contended that Cosby would have invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the civil case if he believed he was in danger of criminal prosecution.

The trial court held a hearing on that issue, and found that Castor had not actually made such an agreement. Castor has pointed to the press release as the written record of the agreement, though the release does not include language about immunity from future prosecution. Cosby’s first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was convicted at the second trial in 2018. Prosecutors used Cosby’s deposition testimony in both trials.

In June, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the conviction on a 6-1 vote, finding that Cosby had relied on Castor’s promise not to prosecute when he gave his incriminating deposition testimony.

Since his release from prison, Cosby has largely remained out of the public eye. He’s done no high-profile interviews, and despite Wyatt’s promises, Cosby hasn’t announced a return to the stage or any future projects.