Bill Cosby has thanked a US court after his sexual assault conviction was overturned and he was freed from prison.
Cosby, an entertainer once known as “America’s Dad,” arrived home on Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled he had been denied a fair trial in 2018.
The 83-year-old had served three years of a three to 10-year sentence.
After being released, Cosby appeared in a press conference outside his suburban Philadelphia home covered live by the major US TV networks.
However, he did not speak, instead relying on spokesman Andrew Wyatt.
A message has since been posted on Cosby’s official Twitter account, thanking fans who stood by him “through this ordeal”.
It said: “I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence. Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal.
“Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law.”
The release of Cosby, once one of America’s most beloved figures but who faced dozens of assault accusations, provoked a strong reaction.
Three years ago he was convicted of drugging and assaulting Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania court ruled the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge the TV star.
In a statement, Constand called the ruling “not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant”.
Gloria Allred, the high-powered lawyer who represented many of Cosby’s accusers, warned the comedian is “not home free” despite being released from prison.
The women’s rights activist said the conviction being overturned on technical grounds “did not vindicate (his) 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”.
Speaking during a press conference held over Zoom from Los Angeles, Allred said now Cosby’s criminal case was over, she could pursue a civil complaint against the star.
She represents Judy Huth, who alleges when she was 15 Cosby attacked her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974.
The case, being heard at Los Angeles Superior Court, has been paused while awaiting a conclusion in Pennsylvania.
Allred said she intends to have Cosby give evidence in the case and expects a trial date to be set “very soon”.
Allred said she will be taking Cosby’s testimony under oath and because his criminal case has now concluded, he will not be able to invoke his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
“So he will be compelled to answer questions under oath in our case,” Allred said.
Asked about the possibility of further civil cases being brought against Cosby, Allred said different statutes of limitations across the states “complicated” the issue, but warned: “Mr Cosby is not home free.”
Allred said some accusers have only ever told her the full details of what Cosby allegedly did to them.
“I can tell you the full story in reference to allegations against Mr Cosby has never been told,” she told the press conference.
Amber Tamblyn, the actress and activist, tweeted: “I am furious to hear this news. I personally know women who this man drugged and raped while unconscious. Shame on the court and this decision.”
TV host Padma Lakshmi said: “Cosby drugged and raped 60 women. Do they not deserve ‘fairness’ and justice? This is why people don’t come forward. This is why urging people to ‘press charges’ falls short, as long as wealthy & powerful men can rape & sexually assault people for decades with impunity.”
However, the court’s decision was welcomed by Cosby’s former Cosby Show co-star Phylicia Rashad.
She tweeted: “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
Rashad later added: “I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth. Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My heartfelt wish is for healing.”