Reasoning to Release Bill Cosby From Prison Disputed by Some Legal Analysts

To be sure, there are lawyers who agree with him and who applaud the court’s 6-1 ruling, a notable consensus on a difficult matter. They believe it delivered a strong message about prosecutorial overreach — about district attorneys’ sticking by the promises they make, even if those promises were ill-advised. “They got it right on the due process violation because what Castor did was basically a promise,” said David Rudovsky, a defense attorney and senior fellow at University of Pennsylvania Law School.

But the “promise” remains a matter of much dispute.

Castor said that, although he believed Constand’s account, she had hurt her credibility as a complainant by waiting a year to report Cosby and by continuing to have contact with him after the alleged assault. He said he decided he could not secure a conviction, so he made the promise, he said, as a tactic to get Constand a measure of justice in the civil case.

But the promise was never written down. The prosecutor who handled the Cosby investigation with Castor, his chief deputy, Risa Vetri Ferman, said he never told her about it. Castor pointed to a news release he had issued announcing the end of the criminal investigation as evidence that an immunity agreement existed. But the news release does not mention anything about immunity. It does mention the anticipated civil case.

Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, said one has to question whether the average person would have gotten the benefit of the doubt that Cosby did. “Because there is no documentation that this promise was made, only this public statement that does not track exactly with what Castor said,” he said.

Castor said he briefed one of Cosby’s lawyers at the time about his plan to offer Cosby immunity. But the lawyer, Walter Phillips, was dead by the time the promise became an issue and Cosby was criminally charged in 2015. Another of Cosby’s lawyers from the original case, John Schmitt, testified that Phillips had told him about it.

Castor said he also discussed the immunity arrangement at the time with Constand’s lawyers. The two lawyers, Dolores M. Troiani and Bebe H. Kivitz, denied that.

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