Bill Cosby spent his first night home from prison eating pizza and plotting his comeback. But his future remains uncertain.
Escrito por Pedro Mejia el julio 1, 2021
Bill Cosby woke up Thursday in his Elkins Park mansion as a free man for the first time in more than two years.
But what does his future hold after the surprise decision by the state’s highest court to overturn his sexual assault conviction and bar prosecutors from ever trying him again?
A reunion with his wife, Camille, a possible return to the stage and in the short term, “extra-crunchy” crust pizza, his spokesperson Andrew Wyatt said.
Fielding questions from reporters outside the estate Thursday morning, Wyatt said Cosby spent his first night home from prison noshing on pizza brought in from Zio’s Brick Oven Pizza in Center City and fielding congratulatory calls from celebrity friends and inmates he became close to during his time behind bars.
“He stayed up until 2 in the morning telling jokes,” Wyatt said. “This morning he’s been talking to a number of promoters, comedy club owners over his breakfast this morning. He’s just sitting at the table telling jokes.”
He left his Montgomery County home Thursday afternoon to meet with his family, whom he hasn’t seen since his sentencing in 2018 because he did not want them to visit him in prison.
Cosby emerged from the back door of his Elkins Park home around 12:40 p.m., gripping Wyatt’s arm while slowly making his way up his driveway to an SUV. Wearing a Cheyney University T-shirt and sweatpants, he smiled and flashed a peace sign to the reporters gathered outside, but did not speak.
“Mrs. Cosby wants him at home with her for a while,” Wyatt said. He declined to say where they would meet, though the Cosbys had been living in Massachusetts before his arrest. Wyatt added: “She wants to spend time with her husband, and she said, “I don’t want anybody around. I want him all to myself.’”
But how willing Hollywood — and the American public — will be to welcome back the former icon once he’s ready to return to the limelight remains an open question. And the viability of a comeback for the man once known as “America’s Dad,” brought low by a career-crippling scandal that saw more than 60 women accuse him of sexual assaults dating back decades, is uncertain.
Advocates for victims of sexual assault have been quick to point out that the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate Cosby’s conviction was not based on the sufficiency of the evidence in his case and did not amount to a pronouncement of innocence.
Instead, the justices’ ruling focused on a procedural issue involving a promise Cosby elicited 16 years ago from former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. that he would never be prosecuted for his alleged 2005 assault of Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand.
Civil lawsuits from several of other accusers still loom and reruns of his shows still largely remain off the air and streaming services in reaction to the wider scandal.
“Mr. Cosby is not home free,” Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented 33 of Cosby’s accusers, said at a news conference Wednesday.
A suit from one of Allred’s clients, Judy Huth, may present the most immediate legal threat. She contends Cosby sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old in 1974. Her case had been stayed by a judge until the Supreme Court resolved Cosby’s criminal conviction in the Constand case.
Speaking Wednesday, Allred said she now hopes to schedule a deposition with Cosby in the near future, arguing that he can no longer invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination since the charges against him in Pennsylvania have been thrown out.
“He will be compelled to answer questions under oath in our case,” Allred said.
But Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, said Cosby could still try to argue that he could face potential prosecution for other crimes in order to avoid answering questions in a deposition.
“A creative lawyer for Cosby, at least in theory, might be looking for charges that he could still be exposed to,” Filler said. “On the other hand I’m not sure that such a lawyer would want to give prosecutors any new ideas.”
Asked about Huth’s suit, and those from other women, Wyatt scoffed: “We’re not worried about that. That’s far from our concern.”
While the statutes of limitations for lawsuits from Cosby’s other known accusers have likely run out, Cosby could still face other legal challenges from his accusers. Janice Dickinson, one of the five women who testified against Cosby at trial in addition to Constand, sued Cosby not for sexual assault claims but also for defamation — after he called her a liar over her accusation that he raped her in 1982.
Lisa Bloom, Dickinson’s lawyer, said her case ended in 2019 with “a substantial settlement.” A different defamation lawsuit, in which seven women jointly sued Cosby, also settled after his criminal conviction.
Bloom said Thursday that other women could have “a fresh claim for defamation” if Cosby or anyone speaking on his behalf calls them liars.
Meanwhile, Cosby is mulling legal action of his own, Wyatt said — a potential malicious prosecution lawsuit against Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, who was elected to office in 2015 in part on a vow to put Cosby on trial.
In its decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Steele’s office had violated Cosby’s due process rights by ignoring the previous agreement Cosby had struck with Castor barring his prosecution. In exchange, Cosby gave incriminating testimony in a civil suit Constand had brought against him that resulted in a $3.4 million dollar settlement.
“We’re looking at all things legal for the benefit of Mr. Cosby,” he said. “What they did to this American citizen. They stripped him of his constitutional rights.”
Castor was quick to point out Wednesday that Cosby could sue Montgomery County and District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, a political rival who defeated him in 2015. Castor, who is also a former Montgomery County Commissioner, said he thought the Supreme Court’s characterization of the due process violations against Cosby would boost such a case.
”I immediately thought that that might be used contrary to the county, so I’m glad I’m not commissioner anymore,” he said.
The only option for prosecutors to have the ruling reconsidered, meanwhile, appears to be filing a petition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to ask for a rehearing of the case. But Filler said there’s no chance the justices, who thoroughly reviewed the case and wrote lengthy opinions, would grant that request.
“You can file it, it’s just going nowhere,” he said.
Cosby has never wavered in maintaining his innocence. Still, the news of the decision in his appeal caught him off guard Wednesday.
“An officer just opened up the cell door and said, ‘Hey, you getting out today,’” said Wyatt. “He heard all of this screaming from inmates knocking on the wall, ‘Get outta here, Bill! You’re free! Get outta here!’”
He emerged from the state prison outside Collegeville a little slimmer — down 42 pounds to his old Temple football weight and with his eyes opened to a broader calling, Wyatt said.
In addition to touring, Cosby, he said, hopes to involve himself in criminal justice reform.
“He said my platform now is to go out here and fight for those right now who are incarcerated unjustly and that’s his platform now,” Wyatt said. “That’s his mission.”
But Kristen Feden, a former Montgomery County prosecutor and part of the Cosby trial team, bristled at the Cosby’s suggestion that he — one of the world’s most famous celebrities and a wealthy entertainer with access to topflight lawyers — was a victim of systemic racism.
“I’m disgusted by that when you take it in conjunction with his other statements such as that this overturned conviction is justice for Black Americans,” she said in on MSNBC Thursday morning. “As a Black female it makes me very sick to my stomach that he is exploiting Black Americans’ thirst for justice.”