Commonwealth v. Cosby

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Citation252 A.3d 1092
Docket NumberNo. 39 MAP 2020,39 MAP 2020
Parties COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee v. William Henry COSBY Jr., Appellant
Decision Date30 June 2021

Brandon Paul Ging, Esq., Allegheny County Public Defender's Office, Peter E. Kratsa, Esq., MacElree Harvey, Ltd., for Amici Curiae PA Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Jill Marie Graziano, Esq., Michael F. J. Piecuch, Esq., Snyder County District Attorney's Office, for Amici Curiae Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association

Aaron Joshua Marcus, Esq., Meredith Ilissa Zeitzer, Esq., Defender Association of Philadelphia, for Amici Curiae Defenders Association of Philadelphia

Jennifer Bonjean, Esq., Matthew S. Ingles, Esq., Sarah Kelly-Kilgore, Esq., Brian W. Perry, Esq., Barbara A. Zemlock, Esq., Perry Shore Weisenberger & Zemlock, for Appellant William Henry Cosby Jr.

Hugh J. Burns Jr., Esq., Josh Shapiro, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for Amicus Curiae Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania

Robert Martin Falin, Esq., Adrienne D. Jappe, Esq., Kevin R. Steele, Esq., Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, for Appellee Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Virginia A. Gibson, Esq., Hogan Lovells US, LLP, for Appellee Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

Brandon Paul Ging, Esq., Allegheny County Public Defender's Office, Peter E. Kratsa, Esq., MacElree Harvey, Ltd, for Amicus Curiae PA Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Jill Marie Graziano, Esq., Michael F. J. Piecuch, Esq, Snyder County District Attorney's Office, for Amicus Curiae Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

Aaron Joshua Marcus, Esq, Meredith Ilissa Zeitzer, Esq., Defender Association of Philadelphia, for Amicus Curiae Defenders Association of Philadelphia.

Jennifer Bonjean, Esq., Matthew S. Ingles, Esq., Sarah Kelly-Kilgore, Esq., Brian W. Perry, Esq., Barbara A. Zemlock, Esq, Perry Shore Weisenberger & Zemlock, Harrisburg, PA, for Appellant.

Adrienne D. Jappe, Esq., Kevin R. Steele, Esq, Robert Martin Falin, Esq., Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, Norristown, for Appellee.

Hugh J. Burns Jr., Esq., Philadelphia, Josh Shapiro, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, for Amicus Curiae Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Appellee Amicus Curiae, Attorney General of Pennsylvania.

Virginia A. Gibson, Esq., Hogan Lovells US, LLP, for Appellee Amicus Curiae Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).




In 2005, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor learned that Andrea Constand had reported that William Cosby had sexually assaulted her in 2004 at his Cheltenham residence. Along with his top deputy prosecutor and experienced detectives, District Attorney Castor thoroughly investigated Constand's claim. In evaluating the likelihood of a successful prosecution of Cosby, the district attorney foresaw difficulties with Constand's credibility as a witness based, in part, upon her decision not to file a complaint promptly. D.A. Castor further determined that a prosecution would be frustrated because there was no corroborating forensic evidence and because testimony from other potential claimants against Cosby likely was inadmissible under governing laws of evidence. The collective weight of these considerations led D.A. Castor to conclude that, unless Cosby confessed, "there was insufficient credible and admissible evidence upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby related to the Constand incident could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."1

Seeking "some measure of justice" for Constand, D.A. Castor decided that the Commonwealth would decline to prosecute Cosby for the incident involving Constand, thereby allowing Cosby to be forced to testify in a subsequent civil action, under penalty of perjury, without the benefit of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.2 Unable to invoke any right not to testify in the civil proceedings, Cosby relied upon the district attorney's declination and proceeded to provide four sworn depositions. During those depositions, Cosby made several incriminating statements.

D.A. Castor's successors did not feel bound by his decision, and decided to prosecute Cosby notwithstanding that prior undertaking. The fruits of Cosby's reliance upon D.A. Castor's decision—Cosby's sworn inculpatory testimony—were then used by D.A. Castor's successors against Cosby at Cosby's criminal trial. We granted allowance of appeal to determine whether D.A. Castor's decision not to prosecute Cosby in exchange for his testimony must be enforced against the Commonwealth.3

I. Factual and Procedural History

In the fall of 2002, Constand, a Canadian-born former professional basketball player, was employed as the Director of Basketball Operations at Temple University. It was in this capacity that Constand first met Cosby, who had close ties to, and was heavily involved with, the university. That fall, she, along with a few other Temple administrators, showed Cosby around the university's then-recently renovated basketball facilities. Over the course of several telephone conversations concerning the renovations, Cosby and Constand developed a personal relationship.

Soon after this relationship began, Cosby invited Constand to his Cheltenham residence. When Constand arrived, Cosby greeted her, escorted her to a room, and left her alone to eat dinner and drink wine. Cosby later returned, sat next to Constand on a couch, and placed his hand on her thigh. Constand was not bothered by Cosby's advance, even though it was the first time that any physical contact had occurred between the two. Shortly thereafter, Constand left the residence.

As the personal nature of the relationship progressed, Cosby eventually met Constand's mother and sister, both of whom attended one of Cosby's comedy performances. Soon thereafter, Cosby invited Constand to return to his home for dinner. Constand arrived at the residence and again ate alone, in the same room in which she had eaten during her first visit. When Constand finished eating, Cosby approached and sat next to her on the couch. At first, the two discussed Constand's desire to work as a sports broadcaster, but Cosby soon attempted physical contact. Cosby reached over to Constand and attempted to unbutton her pants. When she leaned forward to prevent him from doing so, Cosby immediately ceased his efforts. Constand believed that her actions had communicated to Cosby clearly that she did not want to engage in a physical relationship with him. She expected that no further incidents like this one would occur.

Toward the end of 2003, Cosby invited Constand to meet at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. Constand accepted the invitation and, once at the casino, dined with Cosby and a casino employee, Tom Cantone. After dinner, Cantone walked Constand to her hotel room. Cosby called Constand and asked her to meet him for dessert in his room. Constand agreed. When she arrived, she sat on the edge of Cosby's bed as the two discussed their customary topics: Temple athletics and sports broadcasting. Cosby then reclined on the bed next to Constand. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep. After remaining in Cosby's room for a few minutes, Constand left and returned to her own room. Constand interpreted Cosby's actions as another sexual overture. Notwithstanding these unwelcome advances, Constand still regarded Cosby as a mentor, remained grateful for his career advice and assistance, and did not feel physically threatened or intimidated.4

Eventually, Constand decided to leave her job at Temple and return to Canada to work as a masseuse. In January 2004, Constand went to Cosby's Cheltenham residence to discuss that decision. As on her previous visits to Cosby's home, Constand entered through the kitchen door. On this occasion, however, Constand noticed that Cosby already had placed a glass of water and a glass of wine on the kitchen table. While she sat at the table with Cosby and discussed her future, Constand initially chose not to sample the wine because she had not yet eaten and did not want to consume alcohol on an empty stomach. At Cosby's insistence, however, Constand began to drink.

At one point, Constand rose to use the restroom. When she returned, Cosby was standing next to the kitchen table with three blue pills in his hand. He reached out and offered the pills to Constand, telling her that the pills were her "friends," and that they would "help take the edge off."5 Constand took the pills from Cosby and swallowed them. The two then sat back down and resumed their discussion of Constand's planned departure from Temple.

Constand soon began experiencing double vision. Her mouth became dry and she slurred her speech. Although Constand could not immediately identify the source of her sudden difficulties, she knew that something was wrong. Cosby tried to reassure her. He told her that she had to relax. When Constand attempted to stand up, she needed Cosby's assistance to steady herself. Cosby guided her to a sofa in another room so that she could lie down. Constand felt weak and was unable to talk. She started slipping out of consciousness.

Moments later, Constand came to suddenly, finding Cosby sitting behind her on the sofa. She remained unable to move or speak. With Constand physically incapable of stopping Cosby or of telling him to stop, Cosby began fondling her breasts and penetrating her vagina with his fingers. Cosby then took Constand's hand and used it to masturbate himself. At some point, Constand lost consciousness.

When Constand eventually awakened on Cosby's couch in the early morning hours, she discovered that her pants were unzipped and that her bra was raised and out of place. Constand got up, adjusted her clothing, and prepared to leave the residence. She found Cosby standing in a doorway, wearing a robe and slippers. Cosby told Constand that there was a...

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8 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Rivera
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 21 Junio 2023
    ...justice like the voluntariness rule for confessions, the discretion to exclude improperly obtained evidence and the presumption of innocence. Id. (footnote [7] Cosby, 252 A.3d at 1138 (quoting Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 7 (1964)). [8] Id. at 1138-39. [9] 378 U.S. 52, 55 (1964). [10] Id. (......
  • Commonwealth v. Martinez
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • 21 Septiembre 2022
    ... ... § 3125(a)(1); 18 Pa.C.S.A ... § 302(c) (stating where statute is silent as to ... culpability to establish a material element, the element is ... satisfied where the individual acts intentionally, knowingly, ... or recklessly); Commonwealth v. Cosby , 224 A.3d 372, ... 419 (Pa.Super. 2019), vacated on other grounds , 252 ... A.3d 1092 (Pa. 2021), (concluding recklessness to be the ... requisite mens rea of Section 3125(a)). We discern ... no abuse of discretion by the trial court in admitting the ... emails ... ...
  • Commonwealth v. Vance
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • 26 Septiembre 2022
    ... ... are precisely the type of details relied on in previous cases ... to justify admitting this type of evidence ... It is true that some of these similarities are the same type ... of similarities that supported the result in ... [ Commonwealth v. Cosby , 224 A.3d 372 (Pa. Super ... 2019), vacated on other grounds , 252 A.3d 1092 (Pa ... 2021)]. For example, in Cosby the assault on the ... victims "occurred in a setting controlled by ... [Appellant], where he would be without interruption and ... undiscovered by ... ...
  • Ianelli v. Sergeant Michael Harvey
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • 18 Abril 2023
    ... ... officer may make a warrantless entry into private property ... See Commonwealth v. Wagner, 406 A.2d 1026, 1030 (Pa ... 1979) (an officer may proceed with a warrantless entry into a ... private property if there are ... where appropriate, and, ultimately, to prosecute or dismiss ... charges at trial.'” Commonwealth v. Cosby, ... 252 A.3d 1092, 1134 (Pa. 2021) (quoting Commonwealth v ... Clancy, 192 A.3d 44, 53 (Pa. 2018)). The decision for ... the ... ...
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