In a surprise ruling today, the Pennslyvania Supreme Court has vacated Bill Cosby’s sentence, allowing the convicted rapist to be released from prison, reported NBC News. He is now free after serving less than two years of his maximum 10 year sentence for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in January 2014.
Despite accusations from 60 victims and a confession — Cosby admitted to giving Quualudes to women during a 2005 deposition for the Constand case — he has been released on a technicality related to the criminal case’s first district attorney, Bruce Castor Jr. In the ruling, the state Supreme Court determined that Cosby’s was denied access to a fair trial because Castor had told Cosby in 2005 that he would not be charged with a crime due to lack of evidence. After Castor left the district attorney’s office, Cosby was later arrested, prosecuted, and subsequently convicted by Castor’s successor, Kevin Steele, in 2015. In a bizarre turn of events, Castor would later go on to defend Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
Reactions poured in from across the globe, ranging from shock at the sudden news, to reflections on the broader implications of how sexual assault is treated within the legal system. Tarana Burke, the activist who coined the #MeToo term, tweeted in agreement with BET journalist Marc Lamont Hill, who observed that the sentence vacation does not mean that Cosby is innocent.
Writer and cultural critic Roxanne Gay noted that actress Allison Mack, who was sentenced to five years for her role in the NXIVM cult abuse, will be behind bars longer than Cosby. Mack was sentenced to three years in state prison.
More reactions are below.
Cosby’s Cosby Show co-star and newly-appointed student dean at the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University, Phylicia Rashad, received backlash for writing “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” on Twitter. She later walked back her statement.
Constand’s legal representation declined a request for comment from the New York Times.