On June 30, Bill Cosby was released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated his 2018 conviction due to violations of his rights to due process. At 83 years old, he had served three years of a 10 year prison sentence for aggravated sexual assault.
Since Cosby had previously been one of the original targets of the “MeToo” campaign and accused of numerous incidences of rape, sexual assault and abuse of power, there was significant outrage at this news.
Most of this outrage was understandable considering the severity of Cosby’s crimes, but in some cases, radical feminists seized the opportunity to push a disingenuous narrative. Specifically, many made claims that the courts’ vacating Bill Cosby’s sentence proved we lived in a patriarchal society.
On the contrary, Cosby’s release as a result of legal misconduct doesn’t prove our society is patriarchal or that powerful men are above the law. In fact, the mass demand that legal due process be ignored in cases such as his actually proves that we live in a society where men are beneath the law, and that punishment should be doled out extrajudicially only if women are the victims.
Some Background on Bill Cosby
Most people remember Cosby from The Cosby Show, his family sitcom that debuted in 1984. However, his stand-up comedy career actually began in 1961. Starting in Philadelphia, his popularity grew rapidly, and he was soon performing all over the country. He was well-known for his family-oriented humor.
This led to interest from Hollywood executives and a part in the NBC series I Spy. Throughout the late 60s and early 70s, Cosby dabbled in singing, got his MA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and worked on various shows including hosting The Tonight Show.
Cosby’s major success came in 1972 when he debuted Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, a famous Saturday-morning cartoon. This hit was followed by several movies and finally The Cosby Show, which was the number-one rated show for five seasons in a row. Featuring an all-black cast, it not only broke race barriers in America but revived the sitcom genre and paved the way for future similar sitcoms.
After The Cosby Show ended in 1992, Cosby continued to be active in entertainment, focusing primarily on children’s programs like Kids Say the Darndest Things. He was also a prolific social and political activist concerned with issues affecting the African-American community.
Cosby is the recipient of nine Grammy Awards and four Emmy Awards as well as multiple honorary degrees and titles. His net worth is estimated at $400 million.
Bill Cosby’s Sexual Abuse Allegations
Cosby has been accused by about 60 women of sexual crimes or misconduct dating all the way back to the 60s. The first known allegation occurred in the early 80s when Joan Tarshis claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Cosby. The most recent allegation was made by a freelance journalist who ultimately chose not to run the story.
A few more similar allegations occurred throughout the years but didn’t gain traction until 2005 when Andrea Constand filed a complaint with the police alleging sexual assault. She said that after visiting Cosby’s house one evening, he drugged her and touched her inappropriately. She also claimed that after a period of unconsciousness, she woke up unclothed. The Montgomery County DA at the time, Bruce Castor, ultimately decided not to press charges due to lack of evidence.
Constand didn’t give up, though, and filed a civil claim against Cosby. Constand sought out 13 other women who claimed similar abuse at the hands of Cosby, usually involving drugging followed by non-consensual sexual acts. These allegations spanned from the 60s to the early 2000s. Cosby settled out of court with all of the women.
Imprisonment and Release
In 2015, Constand filed a motion to release the transcripts from the previously sealed civil suit due to violations of the confidentiality agreement by Cosby himself. The transcripts were released shortly thereafter, showing that Cosby arguably admitted to the allegations against him. He at least admitted to obtaining Quaaludes, a date rape drug, and giving them to women.
As a result of Cosby’s admissions, the DA’s office brought three felony charges against him for aggravated indecent assault. He was found guilty in 2018 and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison.
However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned this ruling in October of 2021 because the court found that his testimony in the civil case was actually inadmissible evidence. This is because at the time, DA Bruce Castor declared in a public press release that he wouldn’t criminally charge Cosby in order to encourage him to testify openly in the civil case, something Castor later stated was a “verbal agreement that Cosby’s testimony in the civil suit would not be used for a criminal trial.”
Cosby Shouldn’t Be Above the Law, but He Shouldn’t be Below It Either
As you can see, Cosby’s release is hardly evidence of some patriarchal conspiracy in our court system. On the contrary, one could easily make the argument that the government’s readiness to charge a man 12 years after the fact with no physical evidence on top of their ability to get a guilty verdict despite that, proves quite the opposite. DA offices drop cases all the time with far more evidence available to them.
Nevertheless, this case was given extra energy by the government because sexual crimes against women are typically taken more seriously than other crimes. Guilty murderers and thieves frequently get off the hook because of due process, an unfortunate side effect of a necessary part of our justice system.
The fact that so many jump to criticize this in the case of Cosby alone shows that our society is more willing to discard the pillars of our justice system meant to protect the constitutional rights of the accused only when women are the victims. And of course, we already know that women are heavily favored by the justice system, receiving 38% shorter prison sentences for the same crime.
In other words, Cosby’s release isn’t evidence of patriarchy. The reaction to his release shows that when it comes to criminal justice, our society is actually gynocentric.