The surprise reversal of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction by Pennsylvania’s highest court on Wednesday drew widespread shock and fury – particularly in and around Hollywood, where the comedian was once a sitcom titan known as “America’s Dad”.
“I am furious to hear this news," ha scritto the actor Amber Tamblyn on Twitter. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants star, who has been open on social media with her own experiences with sexual assault, added that she personally knew “women who this man drugged and raped while unconscious. Shame on the court and this decision” along with the hashtags #TimesUp and #MeToo.
“THIS is why women do not come forward," twittato the longtime advice columnist E Jean Carroll, who herself is one of several women to have credibly accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. (Carroll has since sued Trump for defamation.)
Cosby, 83, was arrested in 2015 and convicted in 2018 of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee, at his suburban estate in 2004. The sitcom star has served more than two years of his three- to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia. He vowed to serve all 10 years rather than acknowledge any remorse for his actions with Constand.
Justice David Wecht wrote that Cosby had relied on the former prosecutor’s decision not to charge him when he gave potentially incriminating testimony in Constand’s prior civil suit. Laws on bad actors differ by state, but the reversal could make prosecutors wary of calling other accusers in similar cases.
Cosby’s trial, held after more than 50 women came forward with stories of being drugged and assaulted by the comedian, was the first significant celebrity conviction of the #MeToo era. It was widely seen as symbolic of how powerful men could finally be held to account.
Its reversal prompted several expressions of grief after a hard-won victory for #MeToo supporters. “Heartbreaking for all survivors. #MeToo lasts forever," twittato Ellen Barkin.
“To every woman who was sexual assaulted [sic] by #BillCosby my heart hurts for you today and I am full fury. It’s horrifying," twittato Debra Messing.
“I sure didn’t have a court negating 50-something sexual assault allegations and freeing Bill Cosby on my Armageddon Bingo card …” twittato MSNBC host Joy Reid.
“On today’s episode of ‘How the Justice System Fails Victims’: Bill Cosby released on a technicality," twittato the former California congresswoman Katie Hill.
Not everyone was disheartened by the court’s decision. Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby’s TV wife, Clair Huxtable, throughout the show’s run from 1984 per 1992, continued to stand by the actor. “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” she twittato along with a photo of Cosby.
The organization Women in Film released a statement that read, in parte: “Today’s news is a setback in the fight for justice for sexual assault survivors. When the system disregards dozens of accusers in a situation like this — because of a technical loophole, not because of the proof that led to sentencing — it creates the perception that it’s “not worth it” for victims to come forward.”
“I GUESS 70 WOMEN WERENT ENOUGH – fuck u bill," twittato Rosie O’Donnell.
And writer Roxane Gay called the reversal “total bullshit” in a tweet.
“And yes, the prosecutors are responsible for this,” she added in a separate tweet. “They can have some of this smoke, too.”