Prosecutors in Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision that overturned Bill Cosby’s indecent assault conviction, arguing in a petition that Cosby was incorrectly shielded from prosecution.
According to a statement from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office on Monday, a press statement issued by a previous district attorney that sexual assault charges against Cosby, 84, would not be filed shouldn’t have granted Cosby immunity.
“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?” according to the statement.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in June overturned the indecent assault conviction of Cosby and ordered his release from prison after finding that he was denied protection against self-incrimination.
“Petitioning to ask the High Court for review was the right to do because of the precedent set in this case by the majority opinion of Pennsylvania Supreme Court that prosecutors’ statements in press releases now seemingly create immunity,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele in a statement.
“This decision as it stands will have far-reaching negative consequences beyond Montgomery County and Pennsylvania. The U.S. Supreme Court can right what we believe is a grievous wrong.”
Steele was referring to press statements from Bruce Castor, the Montgomery district attorney at the time, who declined to press charges against the comedian and actor, “thereby allowing Cosby to be forced to testify in a subsequent civil action,” according to the high court.
“Unable to invoke any right not to testify in the civil proceedings, Cosby relied upon the district attorney’s declination and proceeded to provide four sworn depositions. During those depositions, Cosby made several incriminating statements,” Justice Wecht wrote in a 79-page opinion, joined by Justices Debra Todd, Christine Donohue and Sallie Updyke Mundy.
“The fruits of Cosby’s reliance upon D.A. Castor’s decision — Cosby’s sworn inculpatory testimony — were then used by D.A. Castor’s successors against Cosby at Cosby’s criminal trial.”
Jennifer Bonjean, Cosby’s attorney who is based in Manhattan, said Monday afternoon her client’s case is “factually unique” and “doesn’t involve important federal questions.”
“It demonstrates a remarkable unwillingness to accept the decision of the state high court,” she said. “It seems unlikely that the United States Supreme Court would review a case like this. It seems like a waste of resources and time.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that a prosecutor’s decision not to charge Cosby in an earlier case opened the door for him to speak freely in a lawsuit against him, thinking he would not incriminate himself criminally. A second prosecutor later used the lawsuit testimony in a criminal trial, and that testimony was key in his conviction years later.
The entertainer, once dubbed “America’s Dad,” was sent to state prison following his 2018 conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004.
She testified that Cosby assaulted her at his Pennsylvania home in 2004 after she came to him for career advice.
Cosby was convicted on three felony counts and was serving a three- to 10-year sentence. He had served nearly three years of the sentence.
The state Supreme Court said Cosby cannot be retried on the same charges.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.
David K. Li contributed.