Bill Cosby released: why was Cosby Show actor in prison, is he blind - and who is Andrea Constand?

The comedian was released from prison yesterday after two years due to a ‘process violation’ in his 2018 trial

Bill Crosby released: why was Cosby Show actor in prison, is he blind - and who is Andrea Constand? (Photo by Michael Abbott/Getty Images)
Bill Crosby released: why was Cosby Show actor in prison, is he blind - and who is Andrea Constand? (Photo by Michael Abbott/Getty Images)

Disgraced US comedian Bill Cosby has been released from prison after his sexual assault conviction was overturned.

Best known for his starring role in The Cosby Show, the Pennsylvania supreme court ruled there had been a “process violation” in the 2018 trial.

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A spokesman for Cosby said the actor has “always used his celebrity and his name to uplift women,” while the prosecutor said he hopes the decision “will not dampen the reporting of sexual assault by victims”

‘No one is above the law’

Prosecutor Kevin Steele said in a statement that Mr Cosby "was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime".

He added: "My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assaults by victims… We still believe that no one is above the law - including those who are rich, famous and powerful."

Cosby declined to comment and looked frail appearing at the court, having already served two years of his sentence in a state prison.

His spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, said: "On this hot day - this is a hot verdict for us.

"Mr Cosby has always used his celebrity and his name to uplift women... How could a man who is being watched by the FBI every day be raping and drugging women… especially a black man?"

Why was Bill Cosby in prison?

In 2018, Cosby was convicted of drugging and molesting ex-basketball player Andrea Constand.

After a high-profile trial, Cosby was found guilty on three counts of felony indecent assault and sentenced to three to ten years in prison.

Constand said that Cosby, who had been a mentor-like figure to her for several years by this point, drugged and molested her at his home in 2004.

She first reported the assault in 2005 but former state prosecutor Bruce Castor declined to press criminal charges.

Constand launched a civil case instead, suing the comedian for sexual battery and defamation, which resulted in a settlement and confidentiality agreement in 2006.

By 2015 many more women had made similar allegations against Cosby, however many could not lead to prosecution as too long much time had passed since the alleged incidents.

Constand’s allegations were among the only ones within the statute of limitations, so the case was reopened.

The judge declared a mistrial of the first trial in 2017 as the jury could not reach a verdict, but a second trial in 2018 - in which other accusers’ testimony was heard - resulted in a conviction.

Why was the conviction overturned?

The decision to overturn Cosby’s conviction is a highly controversial and unusual one.

The court’s reasoning is complicated, but relates primarily to an agreement reached by Cosby’s lawyers and the former prosecutor, Castor, during the civil trial involved Constand.

The court’s finding reads "There is only one remedy that can completely restore Cosby to the status quo ante. He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred

“We do not dispute that this remedy is both severe and rare. But it is warranted here."

Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s spokesman, said: "This is the justice Mr Cosby has been fighting for. They saw the light. He was given a deal and he had immunity. He should have never been charged."

Is Bill Cosby blind?

Cosby was officially reported as legally blind in 2016, as a result of a degenerative eye condition, Keratoconus.

His spokesperson has previously claimed that special measures were taken during his late-career performances to account for his sight issues.

There have been some reports that other inmates helped Cosby get around while he was in prison.

There have been some who have questioned whether Cosby is really blind, or whether the condition was concocted ahead of his trial to win sympathy.