PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Prosecutors asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to reinstate Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, complaining the verdict was thrown out over a questionable agreement that the comic claimed gave him lifetime immunity.
They said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Cosby’s conviction created a dangerous precedent by giving a press release the legal weight of an immunity agreement.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele called the court's decision “an indefensible rule," predicting an onslaught of criminal appeals if it is allowed to stand.
“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 wrote in the petition, which seeks review under the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Cosby’s lawyers have long argued that he relied on a promise that he would never be charged when he gave damaging testimony in an accuser’s civil suit in 2006. The admissions were later used against him in two criminal trials.
The only written evidence of such a promise is a 2005 press release from the then-prosecutor, Bruce Castor, who said he did not have enough evidence to arrest Cosby.
The release included an ambiguous “caution” that Castor “will reconsider this decision should the need arise.” The parties have since spent years debating what that meant.
Steele’s bid to revive the case is a long shot. The U.S. Supreme Court accepts fewer than 1% of the petitions it receives. At least four justices on the nine-member court would have to agree to hear the case. A decision is not expected for several months.
Castor’s successors, who gathered new evidence and arrested Cosby in 2015, doubt Castor ever made such a deal. Instead, they say Cosby had strategic reasons to give the deposition rather than invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, even if it backfired when “he slipped up” in his rambling testimony.
Cosby’s spokesperson on Monday called Steele “obsessed” with the actor and said his goal is to please “the MeToo mob.” Defense lawyers have long said the case should never have gone to trial because of what they call a “non-prosecution agreement.”
“This is a pathetic last-ditch effort that will not prevail. The Montgomery’s County’s DA’s fixation with Mr. Cosby is troubling to say the least,” spokesman Andrew Wyatt said in a statement.
Cosby, 84, became the first celebrity convicted of sexual assault in the #MeToo era when the jury at his 2018 retrial found him guilty of drugging and molesting college sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.
He spent nearly three years in prison before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court set him free in June.
Legal scholars and victim advocates will be watching closely to see if the court takes an interest in the high-profile #MeToo case.