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At least 60 women have accused actor Bill Cosby of sexual assault. He just walked free from prison.

This post deals with sexual assault and might be triggering for some readers.

Bill Cosby has walked free from prison less than two hours after Pennsylvania's highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction.

The state's Supreme Court ruled he never should have faced charges because he struck a non-prosecution deal with a previous district attorney more than 15 years ago.

He had served more than two years of a three-to-10-year sentence following his 2018 conviction.

Cosby, 83, was released from a state prison in Skippack, Pennsylvania, just before 2.30pm local time, a corrections department spokesperson said.

He was seen driving away in a white SUV.

The overturned conviction.

Cosby was found guilty of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, an employee at his alma mater Temple University, in his home in 2004.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, who filed the charges against Cosby in 2015, issued a statement noting that a jury found Cosby guilty and that Wednesday's decision was not based on the facts of the case.

"My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assaults by victims," he said.

"We still believe that no one is above the law - including those who are rich, famous and powerful."

The Supreme Court's majority found that a state prosecutor, Bruce Castor, made a deal with Cosby's attorneys in 2005 not to bring criminal charges relating to Constand.

As a result, Cosby was unable to avoid testifying as part of a civil lawsuit that Constand brought against him, since defendants can only refuse to testify when faced with criminal prosecution.

In a sworn deposition, Cosby acknowledged giving women sedatives to facilitate sexual encounters, although he maintained they were consensual.

His admission, which a judge later unsealed in 2015, helped form the basis for criminal charges later that year, when Steele charged Cosby days before the statute of limitations was set to expire.

The prosecution, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found, essentially amounted to reneging on Castor's earlier promise not to charge Cosby, violating his due process rights.

"There is only one remedy that can completely restore Cosby to the status quo ante," Justice David Wecht wrote for a four-judge majority.

"He must be discharged and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred."

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One dissenting justice said Cosby should stay in prison while two others said prosecutors should be allowed to retry him without relying on the tainted evidence.

Constand's allegations were the only ones against Cosby that were not too old to allow for criminal charges, but they are far from the only allegations against the comedian and actor.

The 60+ accusations.

Cosby is best known for his role as the lovable husband and father in the 1980s television comedy series The Cosby Show, earning him the nickname "America's Dad", but his family-friendly reputation was shattered after dozens of women accused him of sexual assault over a period of decades.

In total, at least 60 women have come forward with allegations.

In 1982, a then-28-year-old Janice Dickinson was invited by Cosby to Lake Tahoe, The Cut reported, after he said he had 'an acting opportunity' for her. The publication reported he gave her a pill to take with a glass of wine and she woke up the next morning to Cosby climbing on top of her. 

"I woke up the next morning after the incident with my entire life altered forever, knowing full well that Bill Cosby had raped me the previous evening," she said.

"I held this inside of my soul for years and years and years. I have been brutally and catastrophically, traumatically altered forever... I've been holding this in since 1982 and it's slowly seeping out of me, the toxicity levels of emotion and catastrophic pain and nightmares for so very many years and I just bounced out of bed and was like, 'Wow.'"

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Actress and activist Lili Bernard told The Cut, Cosby allegedly drugged her drink and raped her in the early 90s, after meeting him on the set of The Cosby Show.

She recalled the last words he spoke to her on set were, "As far as I’m concerned, Bernard, you're dead. Do you hear me? You're dead. You don't exist."

Music teacher Heidi Thomas accused Cosby of sexual assaulting her in 1984 at a house outside Reno, Nevada.

Cosby had invited her there to read a script for him - the role of a drunken woman. She told The Cut he gave her a drink as a prop and told her to take a sip. When she woke up, a naked Cosby was allegedly trying to force his genitals into her mouth.

All these allegations were past the statute of limitations.

His 2018 conviction was widely seen as a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement that brought forth an array of allegations against powerful men in Hollywood and beyond.

Now accusers, Hollywood heavyweights and women are sharing their horror at Cosby's freedom.

"My stomach is in knots."

The reaction from accusers and their attorneys is in stark contrast to the elation and relief many of them felt in 2018.

Victoria Valentino, who accused Cosby of raping her in the 1960s, said she was "outraged" and "stunned".

"My stomach is in knots. The work that we have done to uplift women has been overturned by a legal glitch. We now have a serial predator on the street," she said.

"What does that say about a woman's worth? A woman's value? Do our lives mean nothing? All of the lives that he damaged, not to mention our children and how we respond to our children and our personal relationships. He's impacted the lives of well over 60 women."

Lisa Bloom, attorney to three Cosby accusers including Dickinson, told CNN the ruling was "disgusting", and it was going to be a very hard day for the women who so bravely came forward with allegations against such a powerful man.

"I just think it's a slap in the face for all the victims," she said.

"I think it's going to be a re-triggering event for all of them who've testified that he had drugged and raped them."

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In a statement, attorney Gloria Allred said: 

"This decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today to overturn the conviction of Bill Cosby must be devastating for Bill Cosby's accusers. My heart especially goes out to those who bravely testified in both of his criminal cases. I represented a majority of the prior bad act accusers who testified. Despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision, this was an important fight for justice and even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby's conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused."

Hollywood reacts.

Hollywood heavyweights are among many expressing their disappointment and disbelief at Cosby's newfound freedom, with many pointing out how discouraging this development was for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

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Tarana Burke, #MeToo founder, and Dani Ayers, CEO of The 'me too.' Movement, issued a joint statement on what this news means for survivors of sexual violence. 

"Today’s decision is not only triggering for those who have experienced sexual violence and its emotional and physical consequences; it is a miscarriage of what little accountability survivors are afforded by our legal system. While many will use this moment to focus on single, bad actors, this decision to overturn Bill Cosby’s conviction reminds us that we are forced to contend with a flawed criminal-legal system that was created in support of patriarchal standards, with the goal to maintain dominance, power and control... Our focus has been and will remain on survivors. We stand strong in solidarity with them, centre the need for healing for all who are impacted by this news, and reject the damaging and diminishing stories that will emerge from this decision about who the survivors are and what they deserve."

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

-With AAP.

Feature image: New York Magazine/Getty.