Superior Court of Pennsylvania Upholds Bill Cosby’s Sexual Assault Conviction

On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled against actor Bill Cosby in his appeal to overturn three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby and his lawyers presented eight (8) grounds for appeal. The appeal was denied in a nintey-four (94) page order, written by President Judge Emeritus, John T. Bender.

Cosby’s lawyers argued that the trial court erroneously admitted testimonies from five (5) women as evidence of prior bad acts. Judge Bender wrote that the trial court correctly admitted the evidence under the common plan/scheme/design exception, which “aids in identifying a perpetrator based on his or her commission of extraordinary similar criminal acts on other occasions.” Judge Bender also held that the absence of mistake exception also applied because the evidence showed “a predictable pattern of criminal sexual behavior unique to [Cosby]” that “simultaneously tended to undermine any claim that [Cosby] was unaware of or mistaken about Victim’s failure to consent to the sexual contact.”

Cosby’s lawyers also argued that the trial court erroneously denied Cosby’s habeas corpus motion seeking to quash the criminal complaint based on a purported promise in 2005 by then Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor, Jr. not to prosecute Cosby for sexual assault of the victim in the instant case. Judge Bender noted that there exists no written, formalized non-prosecution agreement. Further, Judge Bender noted that neither Cosby nor Castor sought an order granting Cosby immunity from prosecution. Cosby’s argument thus hinged on a de facto “agreement, contract, arrangement, or promise” not to prosecute or, alternatively, that the trial should be barred by promissory estoppel. Because no court order granting immunity exists, Judge Bender rejected the first argument. With regard to the second argument, Judge Bender found that the evidence did not show that Cosby actually declined to assert his Fifth Amendment rights at the civil deposition in question. Thus, because Cosby did not show that he relied on Castor’s promise, Cosby would not be entitled to relief.

Over sixty (60) women have come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Cosby. In the deposition, Cosby admitted to acquiring quaaludes in the past to drug women before sex. Although the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has upheld Cosby’s classification as a sexually violent predator subject to lifetime supervision, Cosby may now present an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Cosby is currently serving a three (3) to ten (10) year sentence at a maximum-security state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting his victim in 2004.

Additional Reading

Bill Cosby Loses Appeal Of Sexual Assault Conviction, NPR (December 10, 2019)

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Henry Cosby, Jr., (2019 PA Super 354)

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