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Local legal expert, activist weigh in on overturned Bill Cosby conviction

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CARBONDALE, Ill. (WSIL) -- News 3 spoke with a local law expert on why Bill Cosby was able to go free.

SIU Associate Law Professor Jennifer Brobst says this case is a result of actions of the district attorney, Kevin Steele, who took over the case from the previous attorney who was involved in Cosby's 2005 case.

At that time when he was in court for sexual assault, there was an understanding that he wouldn't be charged criminally after giving sworn statements in a separate civil case, without protection of his 5th Amendment rights.

Steele violated those terms when Cosby was arrested in 2015.

Professor Brobst says this decision is about the integrity of the court system.

"As as former prosecutor some time ago, I would say this is a lesson for district attorneys to keep their mouths shut on large, public cases and do their job quietly and privately and by the book," she said.

Brobst also says celebrity cases like Cosby's are not how we should understand fundamental fairness within the judicial system.

Wednesday's ruling does not mean Cosby is innocent.

In this era, the public has seen a lot of celebrities accused of sexual misconduct, but this case is significant because Cosby was the first celebrity accused of sexual assault during the "Me Too" era.

Many women and famous actresses came forward about their stories and encouraged others to do the same.

But some people find Cosby's early release "discouraging" and could trigger some sexual assault survivors to feel like their cases do not matter.

News 3 spoke to a local activist who tells me the procedure to go to court for sexual assault can be long and overwhelming.

"You have to find a lawyer who's willing to take your case, and lawyers are not cheap and then it is a long and draw out process of going to court of the defendant asking for the case to be dismissed before you even get to trial. It's a long battle of pre-trials and continuing to bring up that trauma, whether or not you're ready to talk about it," said Carbondale activist, Tor Neal.

And while Cosby's release might seem disappointing to survivors, activists and advocates say it's still important to speak up about sexual assault.

Brobst says Cosby's release actually had some controversy, with two judges initially disagreeing with the decision.

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Maya Skinner

Maya Skinner is a Multimedia Journalist at News 3 WSIL. Maya joined the team in 2019 and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Communication with a focus in Mass Media.

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