US top court asked to quash Cosby ruling

Bill Cosby was set free from prison in June, three years after he was convicted of sexual assault.
Bill Cosby was set free from prison in June, three years after he was convicted of sexual assault.

Pennsylvania prosecutors have asked the US Supreme Court to toss out the state court decision that overturned Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction.

The 84-year-old comedian and actor was set free from state prison in June, three years after a jury found him guilty of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former employee of his alma mater Temple University, at his home in 2004.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded in a split decision that Cosby should never have faced charges after striking a non-prosecution agreement with a previous district attorney more than a decade before his arrest.

The decision, which reversed the first high-profile criminal conviction since the #MeToo movement began exposing sexual misconduct among powerful men, angered sexual assault victims and their advocates.

Cosby was once known as "America's Dad", largely due to his longtime role as the lovable father in the sitcom The Cosby Show. But his family-friendly reputation was destroyed after more than 50 women accused him of multiple sexual assaults going back five decades.

Constand's allegations were the only ones that were not too old to permit criminal prosecution.

Cosby's lawyers had argued that the Montgomery County district attorney, Bruce Castor, promised in 2005 he would not pursue criminal charges. Though no written agreement exists, Castor released a statement at the time announcing no charges would be filed.

Absent prosecution, Cosby was unable to avoid testifying as part of a civil lawsuit that Constand filed against him. He eventually settled the case with a multimillion-dollar payment.

The current district attorney, Kevin Steele, later charged Cosby in 2015 based in part on that testimony, in which Cosby acknowledged giving sedatives to women.

The trial court ruled that no binding non-prosecution agreement had ever been reached. But the state Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that Cosby had relied on Castor's representation and that Steele's prosecution violated Cosby's rights.

In a news release on Monday, Steele said the ruling, if left untouched, would set a dangerous precedent "that prosecutors' statements in press releases now seemingly create immunity".

A spokesperson for Cosby called the petition a "pathetic last-ditch effort".

Australian Associated Press