Bill Cosby is invoking the recent unrest and move for racial inequality in the appeal of his sexual assault conviction.
The disgraced actor and comedian gave a testimony in 2005, in which he admitted that he gave Quaaludes to young women he wanted to have sex with, an admission that ultimately spurred the release of case files in 2015 to The Associated Press and aided in giving credibility to the #MeToo movement.
For his conduct, which was described by U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno in June 2015 as “perhaps criminal,” Cosby was later convicted in 2018 of drugging, sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, and was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.
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However, Cosby, now 82, was granted an appeal of his assault conviction last month and in recent comments from his representatives, Cosby is citing the often-argued history of an unjust criminal justice system and the treatment of African-Americans and other people of color by police in his new criminal defense.
“The false conviction of Bill Cosby is so much bigger than him — it’s about the destruction of ALL Black people and people of color in America,” Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said when the court accepted the appeal late last month, per The Associated Press.
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The Associated Press also reports that Cosby’s appellate attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said last week that the celebrity for Cosby “does not change his status as a Black man.”
“It would be naïve to assume that his prosecution was not tainted by the same racial bias that pervades the criminal justice process in both explicit and insidious ways,” she added.
Meanwhile, Cosby’s wife of 56 years, Camille Cosby, said in an interview on ABC-TV last week that the #MeToo movement ignores “the history of particular white women” who have “accused Black males of sexual assault without any proof.”
“We know how women can lie,” said Camille Cosby, who made only brief appearances at her husband’s trials for defense closing arguments and reportedly has not visited him in prison.
According to The Associated Press, Camille declined to speak to the outlet last week.
In December, the state’s intermediate appeals court rejected Cosby’s first appeal.
“The reality of it is, he gives them drugs and then he sexually assaults them,” Superior Court Judge John T. Bender said at the time. “That’s the pattern, is it not?”
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But Cosby appealed again, and last month, won the right to fight his sexual assault conviction before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has agreed to review two aspects of the case, including the judge’s decision to let prosecutors call five other accusers to testify about long-ago encounters with the once-powerful celebrity. Cosby’s lawyers have long challenged those testimonies as remote and unreliable. The court will also consider, as it weighs the scope of the testimony allowed, whether the jury should have heard evidence that Cosby had given Quaaludes to women in the past.
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Secondly, the court will examine Cosby’s argument that he had an agreement with a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in the case. Cosby has said he relied on that agreement before agreeing to testify in the trial.
Constand, a former professional basketball player who is white, said she was left semi-conscious and could not fight him off. (She thought she was taking a homeopathic supplement; Cosby later said it was Benadryl while acknowledging he once gave a 19-year-old Quaaludes before sex.)
More than 60 women, mostly white but a few women of color, have made similar accusations against Cosby.
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Cosby lawyer Bonjean, though, believes the #MeToo movement is fading, and that Cosby, if he wins a new trial, might avoid what she called “the mob-justice standards of a hashtag movement.”
Not long after the encounter with Constand, Cosby gave the “Pound Cake” speech to the NAACP, riffing about a scenario in which the Black community complains when someone is shot by police over a stolen piece of cake.
“Then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?” Cosby asked.
A decade later, Black comedian Hannibal Buress took Cosby to task onstage for his scolding. “You rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches,” he said in 2014.
Former prosecutor Kristen Gibbons Feden, who gave closing arguments at Cosby’s retrial, recognizes the good Cosby did for the Black community. She also believes that racial bias exists in the criminal justice system.
“It doesn’t make Cosby innocent,” said Feden, who is Black. “It means we need to fix the criminal justice system.”
Wake Forest University Dean Jonathan L. Walton, who teaches about African American social movements, said that Cosby undeniably boosted the representation of Blacks in American culture. Yet Walton said Cosby might not be the best messenger for today’s moment.
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“One should agree with him as it relates to systemic racism and the injustices of the ‘justice system,’” said Walton, the divinity school dean, per The Associated Press. “While also being suspicious of what seems to be a pattern of his, of only identifying problems when they personally benefit him.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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