The Pennsylvania district attorney’s criminal sex allegations case against famed comedian Bill Cosby may be quickly unraveling. The case relies significantly on testimony offered by Cosby in 2005 during a deposition in a related civil case against him. Philadelphia defense attorney William J. Brennan, Esq., believes the charges should be dropped because the testimony in question was given by Cosby under an immunity agreement promised by the prosecutor’s office in 2005.
The Philly criminal defense lawyer, who has been closely following the Cosby sex assault case, was tapped as a CNN expert on criminal defense law by the show’s host, journalist Michael A. Smerconish. In a commentary segment that aired on Jan. 16 on CNN’s Saturday TV show “Smerconish,” Brennan was asked about the Cosby case and the validity of the “so-called immunity agreement.”
Brennan said the immunity agreement should, indeed, bar the earlier testimony from being admitted into evidence or used to criminally prosecute the entertainer for charges related to the civil case, which arose in 2004.
The Philadelphia DA formally charged Cosby in late December 2015 with felony sexual assault. The 2005 civil case and the current charges stem from a 2004 incident reported by a Temple University employee. Cosby, his lawyers said, was promised, in writing, that nothing he said about the 2004 incident during the deposition would be used against him at any point in the future. Now Cosby’s defense team is seeking a complete dismissal of the new criminal charges, saying that the immunity agreement convinced Cosby to testify during the 2005 deposition — giving up his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself.
The current prosecutor in the case has decided not to uphold the agreement made by his predecessor, claiming there never really was an immunity agreement. It’s true, Brennan pointed out, that immunity agreements should adhere to former protocols. However, in Brennan’s opinion, the agreement was a “promise” made by the former prosecutor who had the “authority to bind the commonwealth in perpetuity not to prosecute” Cosby in relation to testimony offered during that civil case deposition.
Brennan went one step further, maintaining it is entirely possible that there is a reason for “lack of protocol” within this agreement. He said it’s “a very strong possibility” that the agreement was written the way it was because “Mr. Cosby may not have wanted immunity.”
“Immunity,” Brennan said, “infers to the public that you have criminal exposure in the case and that by taking immunity…you are `getting a pass.’” Brennan noted that in 2004 and 2005, Dr. Huxtable (Cosby’s character on the widely popular sitcom “The Cosby Show”) was the most popular man in America. As such, he would not have wanted to be viewed as a person who needed immunity.
Brennan forcefully underscored this point by stating that Cosby “didn’t want an immunity agreement. He wanted what he got, which is a binding promise not to prosecute. That bell can never be unrung and the subsequent prosecutor should not, and hopefully will not, be able to invalidate it.”
At press time, Cosby was scheduled for a Feb. 2 court date.
What Does the Cosby Case Mean for Future Criminal Cases in Pennsylvania?
The Cosby rape case could set precedent and have a significant impact on future criminal cases because, as William Brennan observed, “it is fundamentally unfair to renege on the agreement” that Cosby reached with district attorneys in 2005. Brennan noted that Cosby “gave up a valuable right in testifying under oath at the civil deposition.” Brennan highlighted the importance of this evidentiary issue because Cosby “gave up one of the most valuable rights we possess, the right against self-incrimination, based upon the promise of the district attorney at the time…that he would not be prosecuted.”
For more information about this fascinating case and to hear the entire CNN interview with Mr. Brennan, click here.
If you or a loved one has been accused of sexual assault, rape or any other sex crime in Pennsylvania, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney standing by you. William J. Brennan is a skilled criminal defense lawyer with decades of experience fighting on behalf of clients in criminal cases. Contact the Brennan Law Offices today to schedule a free consultation about your case.