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Bill Cosby to be released from prison, conviction overturned for sexual assault

Comedian Bill Cosby will be released from prison after a court sensationally quashed his conviction for sexual assault.

A US court overturned comedian Bill Cosby’s conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago, allowing his release from prison.

“Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged,” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote in a 79-page ruling.

Cosby, 83, had served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia.

The state Supreme Court found that an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented him from being charged for allegedly drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in 2004.

Although more than 60 women charged that they had been victims of sexual assault by Cosby, he was tried criminally only for Ms Constand’s assault, since the statute of limitations had expired in the other cases.

The ruling bars any retrial in the case.

It was not immediately clear when he would be released.

“We will need to receive, authenticate and review the court documents before we move forward,” a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections told AFP.

Charges were filed against Cosby, who was once celebrated as “America’s Dad,” in late 2015 — just days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He was convicted in 2018 at his second trial, after a first trial ended in a hung jury.

He had refused to offer any remorse over the encounter with the Temple University employee, vowing instead to serve all 10 years of the sentence.

He was recently denied parole, in part, over his refusal to admit guilt or acknowledge any remorse for crimes he maintains he did not commit.

The case had a complicated history that began in 2005 when Constand first reported the alleged assault to then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., who ultimately declined to file charges in this case.

But Mr Castor’s successors reopened the case and charged Cosby in 2015, just days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired and amid a barrage of new accusations from women across the country.

Mr Castor objected to the new prosecution, saying he’d struck a deal with Cosby and his lawyers not to prosecute him for Constand’s assault if Cosby agreed to sit for a deposition in a civil case she had filed against him.

Excerpts from that deposition were ultimately used against Cosby at trial

He was charged in late 2015, when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence — Cosby’s damaging deposition from her lawsuit — arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.

He filed a second appeal against his conviction in August last year. His lawyers argued that five women should not have been allowed to give evidence at his trial as witnesses.

They complained that their “decades-old” allegations, which were not part of the charges, had prejudiced the jury.

It was the first guilty verdict for sexual assault against a celebrity since the advent of the #MeToo movement.

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