In 2004, Bill Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee. He was found guilty of these crimes in 2018. More than 50 women accused Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them dating back to 1969. On June 30, 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction. Cosby’s release from prison epitomizes justice never served for sexual violence survivors.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Cosby was denied a fair trial because prosecutors reneged on an apparent agreement not to charge him. In 2005, then Montgomery County, Pennsylvania district attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. made the choice to not charge Cosby with sexual assault, which he announced in a news release. With this promise, Cosby sat for depositions in a separate lawsuit filed against him by Constand, which he paid $3.38 million to settle. Constand and her lawyers maintain that they were not told of any formal deal to not prosecute Cosby on criminal charges in exchange for his testimony.
Castor’s agreement was set up to prevent Cosby from invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, forcing him to testify in Constand’s civil case. During these depositions, Cosby admitted to giving Quaaludes to women so as to have sex with them. A subsequent district attorney reversed Castor’s decision and charged Cosby with assaulting Constand, using Cosby’s testimony in these depositions as evidence against him.
Without Cosby’s incriminating testimony, it is likely he would have never been convicted. In 2016, Castor testified that although he believed Constand, he did not find the evidence to support her accusations was proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In many ways, Castor got justice for Constand in the only way he could, settlement money.
For many people, $3.39 million sounds like justice. However, settlement money does nothing to heal the trauma and pain suffered by victims. You cannot put a price tag on the cost of violation. While Cosby may have paid reparations to Constand for the crimes he committed against her body, she will never get back what he took from her and countless other victims: bodily autonomy. Constand’s temporary win was a victory for all victims. Now, with Cosby out of jail, his survivors suffer new traumas, the feeling of having justice ripped from their arms and fear for other women who will be victimized.
It is important that the scales of justice remain balanced and the constitutional rights of the people are respected. Here, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is right. Where they are wrong is in stating that Cosby was denied a fair trial. How can a trial be fair when only one victim can face their predator? How can it be fair when so many women will never get justice because their assaults had expiration dates? How is it ever fair when the “she said” in “he said, she said” always holds less merit?
Bill Cosby is a serial rapist, that we know. Bill Cosby is now free. This freedom only teaches more women to stay silent, to accept that justice is never served, or that when it is, it can be taken from you. Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Only 25 out of 1,000 rapists end up in prison. Another one was just set free.