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Bill Cosby loses appeal to overturn sexual assault conviction

The disgraced comic claimed other accusers should not have been allowed to testify at his trial.
Image: Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania on April 26, 2018.Brendan McDermid / Reuters file

A Pennsylvania court on Tuesday rejected Bill Cosby’s bid to overturn his sexual assault conviction, an appeal he had based on his contention that five additional accusers should not have been allowed to testify at his trial.

A primary argument by Cosby's lawyers in the appeal was that accounts from the five other women were "strikingly dissimilar" to that of accuser Andrea Constand, thus making their testimony unfair and prejudicial.

In contrast, the Montgomery County judge in Cosby's trial, Steven O'Neill, had said in a post-trial memo that the testimony of the additional women showed "chilling similarities" that pointed to a "signature" crime.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that O'Neill was right to allow their testimony, even if some of those "prior bad acts" took place as long as 22 years before Cosby's assault of Constand.

"Here, the time period in question is substantial, especially in relation to existing case law. Nevertheless, several factors tend to demonstrate" that the value of the "evidence remains strong, despite that substantial time gap," the appeals court said, citing "distinctive similarities between the additional testimony and Cosby's assault of Constand.

"Furthermore, there were multiple prior sexual assaults, not merely one, and all of those prior assaults evidenced the same, signature pattern of misconduct," the appeals court said.

Cosby had also argued that he was hurt at trial by a deposition he gave in Constand's civil lawsuit against him. The comic icon claimed he only consented to give that testimony because previous Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor had promised not to prosecute him.

The appeals court said Tuesday that "it is undisputed that no written, formalized non-prosecution agreement exists in this case."

"Additionally, no order granting Appellant immunity from prosecution was previously sought by Appellant or Mr. Castor," the appeals court added.

The 82-year-old Cosby has since September 2018 been serving a three- to 10-year term at a state prison near Philadelphia.

He was convicted on April 26, 2018, on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Constand, a former employee at Cosby's alma mater, Temple University.

She testified that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in his suburban Philadelphia home in January 2004.

"When are we, the people of the United States of America, going to end the acceptance of overall corruptions?" the comic's wife Camille Cosby said in statement after appellate court ruling.

"I can assure you that our personal battle against clear, racist, incestuous vindictiveness, within the Pennsylvania criminal justice systems, is not over."

Cosby could still ask for relief from the state Supreme Court.

"This news of the Superior Court denying Mr. Cosby’s appeal is appalling and disappointing, but it shows the level of corruption that resides in the Judicial System of Pennsylvania," according to statement from Cosby's spokesman Andrew Wyatt.

"We’re not shocked because it shows the world that this isn’t about justice, but this is a political scheme to destroy Mr. Cosby, however they will not stop us and we will prevail in the State Supreme Court. Mr. Cosby remains hopeful and he stands behind his innocence."

Cosby's conviction marked one of the most poignant moments of the #MeToo movement.

"We are pleased with the court’s decision to uphold Cosby’s conviction," according to a statement from Erinn Robinson, spokeswoman for The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a leading anti-sexual assault organization.

"It is a just outcome in this case. And we are hopeful that seeing Bill Cosby face justice will encourage other survivors to come forward and pursue justice for perpetrators.”

The actor is eligible for parole as early as Sept. 25, 2021.