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Prosecutors ask Supreme Court to review ruling that freed Bill Cosby

The Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia explains the decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn Bill Cosby’s conviction of sexual assault. (Video: Monica Rodman/The Washington Post)
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Prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pa., have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling by the state’s top court earlier this year that vacated the sexual assault conviction of Bill Cosby, who was one of the country’s most beloved celebrities before he was recast as a merciless predator and sexual deviant in the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.

Cosby, 84, was found guilty of sexual assault in 2018. He spent nearly three years behind bars before his sentence was reversed in June by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ruled that Cosby had believed he was operating under an immunity agreement offered by a prosecutor when the entertainer provided testimony that was damaging to himself.

Prosecutors have denied the existence of such a deal, and Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said in a Monday statement that the U.S. Supreme Court “can right what we believe is a grievous wrong.”

Cosby has always maintained his innocence. On Monday, his spokesman Andrew Wyatt lashed out at Steele, whom he accused of having a troubling “fixation” on Cosby.

“In short, the Montgomery County D.A. asks the United States Supreme Court to throw the Constitution out the window, as it did, to satisfy the [#MeToo] mob,” Wyatt said in a statement. “This is a pathetic last-ditch effort that will not prevail.”

Though the case was widely followed in the media, it appears unlikely that the Supreme Court will review it. The panel receives between 7,000 and 8,000 petitions each term and grants oral arguments to around 80.

“[Cosby’s case] is such a one-off situation that the U.S. Supreme Court might look at it and say, ‘It’s not worth our time because this will never happen again,’” Jules Epstein, a law professor at Temple University, told The Washington Post at the time of Cosby’s release.

From the onset of Cosby’s criminal trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers clashed over their differing interpretations of a 2005 news release issued by then-district attorney Bruce Castor, who had declined to pursue a criminal case against Cosby, citing “insufficient, credible and admissible evidence.”

The release did not mention an immunity deal, but Cosby’s attorneys said it buttressed an oral non-prosecution agreement.

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Cosby and Andrea Constand, an employee at Cosby’s alma mater Temple University who accused him of drugging and molesting her, later settled a civil lawsuit. The criminal case, which Castor had declined to prosecute, was reopened in 2015 after a judge unsealed parts of Cosby’s deposition during the civil suit. That decision came shortly after a dozen women came forward with allegations that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them.

A particularly damaging deposition from the 2005 civil suit revealed that Cosby had acknowledged intending to use quaaludes, a sedative, on young women with whom he wanted to have sex. He did not admit to criminal wrongdoing during the deposition.

By the time he was convicted in 2018, at least 60 women had accused Cosby of sexually assaulting or harassing them. The allegations spanned some 40 years, during which Cosby’s career took off and transformed him into a household name.

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