The court's ruling ends the long-running legal fight against the actor. His conviction was a significant milestone in the #MeToo movement, as he was initially accused by many women of sexual misconduct dating back decades.
The court issued a 79-page opinion stating that Cosby was not entitled to due process when he was accused of assaulting a woman in 2004.
Cosby, who is 83, has already served over two years of a sentence that ranges from three to ten years. He is currently being held at SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County, which is a maximum-security prison.
He was released shortly before 2:30 p.m. ET Maria Bivens, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, confirmed this to NPR.
Cosby was convicted of three counts for aggravated indecent attack. He drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his Cheltenham, Pa. home.
Constand, who was employed by Temple University's women's basketball team, also settled her civil lawsuit with Cosby for $3.38million.
In December 2019, Cosby lost the appealfor his sexual assault conviction.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele stated in a statement that he was found guilty and is now free to go on a procedural question that is not relevant to the facts of his crime. "Prosecutors from my office will continue following the evidence wherever it leads. We believe that everyone is subject to the law, even those who are famous or wealthy.
This controversy is centered on the apparent promise of a prosecutor
The Pennsylvania high court's opinion was based on Bruce Castor, former Montgomery County District Attorney,'s assurance to Cosby that he would not face charges for Constand's drugging and assaults.
The justices ruled that Castor and Cosby never reached an agreement.
Castor stated that Constand had the best chance of justice for her assault by Constand in a civil suit. If Cosby didn't know he would not be facing criminal charges, then Cosby couldn't invoke the Fifth Amendment in civil action.
According to the opinion, Cosby gave four depositions where he made "several statements incriminating,"
"The final result was exactly what D.A. expected." Castor had in mind: Cosby relinquished his rights and Constand was granted significant financial relief," the court wrote. "Cosby was forced to provide inculpatory evidence which ultimately led to a multimillion-dollar settlement."
The depositions taken under oath against Cosby were later used in his trial years later when the criminal case was reopened by succeeding prosecutors.
The justices described this about-face "as an affront to fundamental fairness," and said "no mere altering of the guard strips that circumstance from its inequity."
This matter was not decided by all the justices. The opinion was filed by three justices, while the remaining three filed separate opinions.
Justice Thomas Saylor, for example, noted in his dissent that Castor was not a defendant and that a lower court had made an explicit finding. He asked if the evidence actually supports such a promise.
Lawyers for accusers and the prosecution react
Steele, the prosecutor, stated in a statement that he commended "Cosby's victim Andrea Constand" for her courage in coming forward and remaining steadfast through this long ordeal.
He didn't address the specific criticisms made against his office in the opinion of the state Supreme Court.
Gloria Allred, an attorney who represented many of Cosby's accusers said that the decision would be devastating for them.
She said that "despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling", she stated, "this was an important fight to justice and even though it overturned Bill Cosby’s conviction on technical grounds, it didn't vindicate Bill Cosby’s conduct and should therefore not be taken as a statement or finding that he did no act in the charges against him."