US comedian Bill Cosby was freed from prison on Wednesday, in a blow to the #MeToo movement, after a US court overturned his conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago.
The 83-year-old left SCI Phoenix, a state jail 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Cosby had been denied a fair trial.
Cosby, who shattered racial barriers with his Emmy-winning role on “I Spy” in the 1960s, was convicted in 2018 of assaulting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia mansion in 2004.
But the judges wrote in a 79-page decision that a non-prosecution agreement between a former district attorney and Cosby over evidence he gave in a civil case meant the actor should not have been charged.
“Cosby’s convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged,” they wrote.
Cosby, who also starred as a dad and doctor on the hit TV series “The Cosby Show,” in the 1980s, left prison just before 2:30 pm (1830 GMT), a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections told AFP.
His conviction was the first guilty verdict for sexual assault against a celebrity since the advent of the worldwide reckoning against sexual violence and abuse of power dubbed the #MeToo movement.
Accusers of Cosby and supporters of the movement expressed anger at his release.
Lawyer Lisa Bloom said she and the three Cosby accusers that she represents were “disgusted that he is a free man today.”
Cosby served more than two years of a three-to-ten-year sentence for aggravated indecent assault and has always maintained his innocence.
He has not reacted to his release and Cosby’s publicist did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Although more than 60 women charged that they had been victims of sexual assault by Cosby, he was tried criminally only for Constand’s assault, since the statute of limitations had expired in the other cases.
Cosby has insisted that the encounter with Constand, who was then a Temple University employee, was consensual.