Bill Cosby's lawyers are preparing to file a motion requesting he be released from prison early amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 82-year-old comedian is serving a three to 10-year sentence at SCI Phoenix in Pennsylvania, a maximum-security state facility. The news comes after unconfirmed reports that two officers have tested positive for COVID-19.
Cosby's rep, Andrew Wyatt, told Yahoo Entertainment he's "very concerned" for his client's health in prison.
"The reason: Mr. Cosby is elderly and blind — and always needs to be escorted around the prison by support service inmates, known as Certified Peer Specialists (CPI)," Wyatt said Wednesday. "Those inmates could fall victim to the coronavirus and easily spread the disease to Mr. Cosby as they wheel him around in a wheelchair. Among their duties, the inmates bring Mr. Cosby to the infirmary for his doctor appointments and clean his cell."
Wyatt continued, "In addition, Mr. Cosby is constantly in contact with the correction officers who could contract the disease on the outside and bring it inside the prison, potentially exposing Mr. Cosby to the virus."
As of Tuesday, no inmates at SCI Phoenix have tested positive for COVID-19. However, Wyatt told Yahoo he heard through sources that at least two officers at the prison tested positive, but doesn't know who those individuals are and whether they came in contact with Cosby. Yahoo Entertainment reached out to a spokesperson for the prison, but did not immediately receive a response and cannot verify the claim at this time.
"Prisons and jails around the country are becoming infested with coronavirus cases — and it's only a matter of time before Mr. Cosby's prison likely falls victim to the virus," Wyatt continued.
Wyatt added that Cosby's lawyers will likely file a motion "asking the court to release Mr. Cosby from prison and place him under house arrest for the duration of his sentence."
"Specifically, the lawyers are focusing on whether states are granting early release to elderly inmates from prisons due to the coronavirus — which could be a valid legal argument for Mr. Cosby," Wyatt noted.
Cosby has not been tested for COVID-19 and is "feeling fine," according to his spokesperson, "other than being blind and his blood pressure spiking at times."
So, does Cosby have a valid legal argument? San Diego criminal attorney David P. Shapiro says the actor’s defense team does, but might face a different roadblock.
"While Cosby’s lawyers have a legitimate concern in their client’s physical wellbeing, given his age and medical condition, the fact remains he was convicted of a violent sexual offense and has been in custody only a short amount of time," Shapiro tells Yahoo Entertainment. "There is likely a voluminous number of more qualified inmates in Pennsylvania prisons who have served more time for far less serious offenses."
In April 2018, Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Silva Megerditchian adds that while courts and prisons are "navigating uncharted waters with COVID-19," she finds it unlikely Cosby will be released.
"The coronavirus has brought up an issue never before dealt with in the state prison and county jail systems," she explains to Yahoo. "Prisons are in the process of releasing inmates as long as they were convicted of nonviolent low-level crimes and the inmate does not pose a risk to themselves or the community. The problem that Cosby's lawyers have is Cosby was convicted of a sex crime — aggravated sexual assault.
Megerditchian continues, "These crimes are just not seen as low level, non-violent crimes. What is positive for the defense team is these crimes allegedly had occurred about a decade ago, and Cosby is 82 years old — prison officials could see him as not a threat to himself nor the community — but again, because of the nature of the crimes committed by Mr. Cosby, I believe it is unlikely he will be released. "
Cosby, who said the 2004 encounter was consensual, filed another appeal in January.
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