PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania appellate court rejected Bill Cosby’s efforts to overturn his sexual assault conviction Tuesday, finding that five additional accusers allowed to testify at his trial did not improperly influence the jury’s decision.
Lawyers for the 82-year-old comedian had maintained that the testimony, alleging assaults that in some cases had occurred decades ago, had unfairly prejudiced jurors weighing whether Cosby had committed a specific 2004 assault.
But in its unanimous opinion Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, ruled that the testimony was properly included under a state law that allows prosecutors to introduce evidence of uncharged crimes to establish a “signature pattern.”
“Here, the evidence established (Cosby’s) unique sexual assault playbook,” the court said. It added that the testimony “tended to undermine any claim that (Cosby) was unaware of or mistaken about the victim’s failure to consent.”
In Cosby’s case, Montgomery County prosecutors alleged that those earlier assaults — on accusers ranging from aspiring actresses to supermodel Janice Dickinson — showed the comedian had a long history of drugging and molesting women aspiring to careers in the entertainment industry.
That made it all the more likely, they contended, that Andrea Constand, the central accuser in Cosby’s case, was telling the truth.
Cosby was convicted last year of drugging and assaulting Constand, a former Temple University employee, during a 2004 visit to his home in Cheltenham, near Philadelphia.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said he was pleased with the Superior Court decision, and hoped it would allow Constand to “finally put this assault behind her and move on with her life,” nearly 15 years after she first reported the crime to law enforcement.
“The world is forever changed because of Andrea’s bravery,” Steele said in a statement. “With this decision, it has been affirmed that no one is above the law.”
Cosby’s publicist, Andrew Wyatt, called the court’s decision “appalling and disappointing” and vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
In a statement, Wyatt decried what he described as “the level of corruption that resides in the Judicial System of Pennsylvania.”
Of the decision, he said, “We’re not shocked because it shows the world that this isn’t about justice, but this is a political scheme to destroy America’s Dad.”
In a 93-page ruling that noted the case has a “tortured procedural history,” the Superior Court detailed its reasoning for rejecting eight different arguments from Cosby’s lawyers that the conviction should be overturned.
The issues under appeal included whether it was appropriate for jurors to hear Cosby’s testimony in a civil lawsuit deposition that he has given Quaaludes to women he wanted seduce. The court said the evidence was relevant.
“His knowledge of the use of central nervous system depressants, coupled with his likely past use of the same with (the other five women who testified at trial), were essential to resolving the otherwise he-said-she-said nature of Victim’s allegations,” the ruling said.
The court also rejected Cosby’s argument that a 2006 promise from then-District Attorney Bruce Castor that he would never be prosecuted over Constand’s allegations should have been binding.
“Only a court order conveying such immunity is legally binding in this Commonwealth,” the court said.
Currently serving a minimum three-year prison sentence at a state prison in Collegeville, Cosby has maintained his innocence, called his trial a sham, and accused the more than 50 women who have come forward to accuse him of assault of conspiring with civil attorneys and a politically motivated prosecutor to bring him down.
In an interview earlier this month with Black Press USA, he referred to himself as a “political prisoner.”
“When I come up for parole, they’re not going to hear me say that I have remorse,” he said. “I was there. I don’t care what group of people come along and talk about this when they weren’t there. They don’t know.”