It's tempting to feel hopeless when it takes approximately 60 women to put a man accused of sexual assault, sexual battery, child sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct behind bars. Bill Cosby is one of the few prominent men accused of rape who actually faced consequences after being outed by his victims. That should be the end of the story, but it's not.
Comic, author, activist, and television host W. Kamau Bell's new documentary, We Need To Talk About Cosby, provides a less-discussed perspective about how The Cosby Show creator's legacy became something else entirely. He skillfully and with difficulty (as he is a Black man who grew up in the '70s) dethrones a legend and in doing so, perhaps gives some of these women peace. And as for Cosby, was he able to beat the system? Is he still in prison? In a perfectly fair world, he would be.
Is Bill Cosby still in prison?
The short answer is no, Bill Cosby is not in prison. How is that possible, you ask? Did the deal with the devil finally pay off? It turns out that a mistake was made. Some people accidentally lock their keys in their cars, but Bill Cosby managed to get out of prison after a scant three years. Here's what happened.
According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, per the New York Times, Cosby's conviction was overturned "because prosecutors violated Mr. Cosby’s rights by reneging on an apparent promise not to charge him, the court majority ruled." Basically, in 2005 then–Montgomery County, Penn. attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. issued a statement saying Cosby wouldn't be prosecuted. He then sat for a deposition in a separate lawsuit filed against him by Andrea Constand.
Cosby paid Constand $3.38 million to settle her sexual-assault lawsuit in 2006. The district attorney after Castor reversed the decision and used Cosby's admission of guilt in the deposition as evidence against him. Apparently, Castor decided not to charge Cosby in 2005 "in an effort to prevent him from invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination so he would have to testify in Ms. Constand’s coming civil case," per the New York Times. To recap, Castor thought he was doing a good thing for Constand.
Here's what can we learn from Bill Cosby in 'We Need To Talk About Cosby.'
In the documentary We Need To Talk About Cosby, writer and director W. Kamau Bell unpacks the complicated history of Bill Cosby's career that led to his ability to work his way into our lives, despite what was eventually revealed about him. Though he asks how this happened, W. Kamau Bell also admits that he is not wholly objective in the pursuit of the answer.
W. Kamau Bell grew up in the '70s, watching Picture Pages, Fat Albert, and The Cosby Show. It might make him less able to be objective, but his perspective certainly reminds us of a different aspect of Cosby's story. Cosby made sure he was almost too big to fail, and that failure isn't restricted to his career, but to his fans as well. How could he possibly fail them? That's what this documentary dives into, with W. Kamau Bell deftly guiding us with his experiences and the experiences of others.
We Need to Talk About Cosby airs Jan. 30 on Showtime.