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Bill Cosby whistleblowers hope his release doesn’t discourage victims

Cosby Whistleblower: It was hard watching him escape like this 1:54

(CNN) – Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, the first high-profile celebrity criminal trial of the #MeToo era, has been overturned, but his whistleblowers hope the movement will continue to inspire victims to come forward.

“This is a discouraging message for survivors of sexual assault,” said Patricia Leary Steuer, who accused Cosby of assault.

“I hope they don’t, because in the end all they can do is show up and tell the truth.”

The man who was once known as “America’s Daddy” He was released from prison after three years on Wednesday, when Pennsylvania’s highest court said his due process rights were violated.

A former Montgomery County district attorney decided not to prosecute Cosby in 2005 in exchange for his testimony in a civil case, and that statement was ultimately used against him at trial, the panel of judges for the State Supreme Court said. Pennsylvania in your opinion.

While some of Cosby’s accusers, such as Steuer, said they agreed with the legal basis of the decision, others criticized it, but all those who accused him of sexual assault defended their stories.

A technicality does not make you innocent. It means something went wrong with the system, ”said Lise-Lotte Lublin, who accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her in 1989.

Cosby maintains that their sexual interactions were consensual.

“Well, I’m not guilty,” Cosby told CNN on Wednesday. “So when I see what they’re trying to put in, and I say, this is not correct.”

Cosby learned around noon Wednesday that his conviction had been overturned. A guard knocked on his cell door while he was sleeping, told him he was free and left the door open, said his spokesman, Andrew Wyatt.

The artist was later greeted home by lawyers and supporters, and is scheduled to see his wife, Camille, for the first time in three years on Thursday, Wyatt said. Cosby didn’t want his family to visit him in prison, but he did talk to them, Wyatt said.

TIME’S UP Foundation CEO Tina Tchen said Wednesday that Cosby’s release erased the semblance of justice for the women who accused him of assault, but she applauded the bravery of the accusers and offered support to those who report it.

“To the survivors of this case, each of you bravely stood up against a powerful man at great personal risk,” Tchen said. “We were with you then and we are here with you now.”

Steuer encouraged the women to keep talking: »Report it. Talk. Stand up for the truth about this. Make your voice count. Your voice matters.

#MeToo and Cosby’s conviction

Cosby was sentenced in 2018 to between 3 and 10 years in state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at her home in 2004.

Cosby’s case was seen by many as proof of whether the cultural shift brought about by the #MeToo movement would translate into court.

The Montgomery County district attorney who prosecuted Cosby, Kevin Steele, said the actor was free on a procedural issue that is “irrelevant to the facts of the crime.”

“I want to commend Cosby’s victim, Andrea Constand, for her courage in coming forward and standing her ground during this long ordeal, as well as all the other women who have shared similar experiences,” Steele said.

“My hope is that this decision does not stop the denunciation of sexual assaults by the victims. Prosecutors in my office will continue to follow evidence wherever and whoever it leads. We continue to believe that no one is above the law, including the rich, famous and powerful.

Although dozens of women accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, only Constand’s accusations led to criminal charges.

Constand initially reported the assault to police in 2005, a year after it occurred. After former Montgomery County prosecutor Bruce Castor decided not to press charges in the case, Constand and Cosby settled a civil lawsuit for $ 3.38 million in 2006.

In late 2015, when a wave of women spoke accusations against Cosby, Steele, the new Montgomery County prosecutor, pressed charges.

In April 2018, a jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. The verdict came a year after Cosby’s previous trial ended in mistrial, as a different panel of jurors said they were stalled and could not unanimously agree to a verdict.

Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that she felt her initial conviction was influenced by the #MeToo movement.

“We have a movement that wants to make a platform within the court for women who did not insist on their demands,” Bonjean said. “I think we have a tendency in our courts where chambers are infiltrating the court of public opinion and that leads to judicial errors.”

Gloria Allred, who represents several Cosby whistleblowers, said Thursday that although he is now a free man and cannot be prosecuted further in Pennsylvania, there is still a pending civil lawsuit involving a “very serious case” in Superior County Court. from Los Angeles to Santa Monica.

“And we’re going to see the judge again next month, well August actually, to have a state conference,” Allred told John Berman on New Day. “And now the court will be ready to set a date for us to finish our discovery and perhaps to set a date for the trial.”

Wyatt said that more civil litigation is an “act of desperation.”

The “resolution is both severe and unusual,” but justified, judges say

Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments last December that Cosby filed for a civil deposition on Constand solely because Castor, the former district attorney, had promised he would not criminally prosecute him. In that statement, Cosby admitted that he had secured Quaaludes for the women with whom he wanted to have sex.

In their decision on Wednesday, the judges wrote that Castor had found that he “could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cosby drugged and raped Constand.”

“Seeking ‘some measure of justice’ for Constand, Prosecutor Castor decided that the Commonwealth would decline to prosecute Cosby for the incident in which Constand was involved, thus allowing Cosby to be compelled to testify in a subsequent civil action, under penalty of perjury. without the benefit of their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, ”the justices wrote.

That civil statement Cosby provided was disclosed in 2014, and one of Castor’s successors subsequently used the statements he made in the statement as part of the criminal trial.

The judges wrote that they considered different solutions, including the possibility of carrying out another trial against Cosby, but considered that there was only one suitable solution. “He must be released, and any future proceedings on these particular charges must be dismissed,” wrote the judges. “We do not dispute that this solution is both severe and unusual. But in this case it is justified, even required.

But one of Cosby’s accusers said that the annulment of the conviction does not mean that he has escaped the consequences of the actions that, according to her, he took.

“He’s become this infamous person instead of a famous person, and he’s going to have to deal with that,” Lublin said.

Cosby “still has a lot to offer” and wants to get back on stage, Wyatt said.

The comedian signed a deal for a five-part documentary series that began shooting four years ago, Wyatt said. He will do interviews with that team, the spokesperson said.

– CNN’s Sonia Moghe, Mirna Alsharif, Kristina Sgueglia and Jean Casarez contributed to this report.

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