Bill Cosby asks Pennsylvania high court to review conviction

Bill Cosby filed an appeal Thursday of an appellate court decision last month that upheld his 2018 conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home 16 years ago.

The latest appeal — filed with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which does not have to take the case — focuses on four key trial issues, including the judge’s decision to let five other accusers testify about uncharged alleged crimes, and to send Cosby to trial despite what he called a binding agreement with an earlier prosecutor that he would not be charged in the case.

Cosby, 82, is serving a three-to-10-year prison term at a maximum-security state prison in Pennsylvania. His lawyers called the 2004 encounter consensual, but a jury found otherwise in April 2018, convicting him on all three felony counts in the first celebrity case to straddle the pre- and post-#MeToo era.

Bill Cosby on April 23, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. (Photo: Matt Slocum, AP)

Cosby’s petition to the high court was filed as jury selection gets underway this week in the case that launched that national movement of people coming forward with accounts of sexual assault or harassment.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been charged with five sex crimes in New York involving two women he is alleged to have raped or sexually assaulted. At least four other women are expected to testify against him about similar but uncharged alleged crimes, intended to help prosecutors prove a pattern of alleged “prior bad acts.”

Only one such “prior-bad-acts” accuser was allowed at Cosby’s first trial in June 2017, which ended in a hung jury. At his second trial, the judge allowed five such accusers to testify. Their testimony was considered crucial to Cosby’s conviction.

Bill Cosby arrives for a sentencing hearing following his sexual assault conviction in Norristown Pa., in September 2018. (Photo: Matt Rourke/ AP)

Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, issued a statement on behalf of his lawyers, who said they hope the high court will consider his petition in light of the questions it raises about the impact of “#MeToo hysteria” and public opinion in general on constitutional principles in criminal court cases.

“The lower courts stripped Mr. Cosby of his most sacred constitutional guarantees of due process and the presumption of innocence when they permitted the jury to hear, and base its verdict on, decades-old, unproven allegations of multiple women,” the Cosby statement read.

“The trial court’s overriding concern should have been to ensure a fair proceeding on the single charged offense for which Mr. Cosby was standing trial –not to provide a platform to any and all accusers who belatedly wanted their day in court.”

Cosby had been a mentor to the accuser whose allegations formed the basis of the case against him, Andrea Constand, who at the time was on the staff of the women’s basketball team at his alma mater, Temple University.

In his filing, Cosby’s lawyers said the rulings upheld by the state Superior Court last month would have “far-reaching consequences for all future criminal proceedings, including those that proceed outside the national spotlight.”

They include the judge’s decision to let jurors hear portions of Cosby’s deposition testimony in a related civil suit Constand filed. In the deposition, Cosby acknowledged giving Constand three pills before the sexual encounter and spoke of giving quaaludes in the 1970s to another accuser before engaging in sex with her.

Cosby’s lawyers, in the appeal petition, also challenge his classification as a sexually violent predator subject to lifetime supervision when he leaves prison.

Cosby, asserting his innocence, has said he will never express remorse to the parole board and therefore expects to serve the entire 10-year sentence. 

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