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Utah attorney and rape crisis center react to agreement that set Bill Cosby free

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 30, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — The legal agreement between Cosby and the District Attorney is one a local criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City said he’s never seen before and does not apply to Utah law.

The reason why Bill Cosby is free from prison is not because he didn’t do the crime he’s accused of, rather a legal mistake.

Jesse Nix, an attorney focusing on criminal defense said this is a rare case with an extreme outcome.

According to the court documents released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Cosby had agreed to tell his attorney the truth if all charges would be taken off the table—they were. At least until a new District Attorney reopened the investigation years later.

Read - Bill Cosby released from prison after sex assault conviction is overturned by court

“If you are a person charged with a crime and you've made a promise that no one is going to use your words against you, then you freely speak about it. It’s really unfair for the State to say now we’re going to put you in prison," said Nix.

Under the Fifth Amendment, Nix said Cosby had the Constitutional right to not provide information that would incriminate himself.

The new District Attorney must not have noticed the agreement between Cosby and his predecessor, which is why Nix said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was right to decide Cosby was not tried fairly.

"If you’re a criminal defendant charged with this, you have constitutional rights," said Nix. "You can’t be forced to give evidence against yourself and you have the right to defend yourself in court, with the help of an attorney.”

Another message Nix believes the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent with their decision—victims need to make a formal report.

Read - How researchers in Utah are leading the way in collecting DNA samples to solve sexual assault cases

"If you are a victim of sexual assault, rape, or anything like that, you need to go to the police and make a statement," said Nix. That’s the only way people will believe you."

Yet, reporting can be just as traumatic as the incident, according to Kristen Floyd the executive director of Safe Harbor.

Locally owned, Safe Harbor is a group dedicated to serving sexual assault and domestic violence victims in Davis County.

"We offer free mental health and sexual assault exams," said Floyd. "If a victim needs to contact us at 3 a.m. or on a Sunday, great. We want them to have somebody all the time."

During the pandemic, Floyd said they saw a 50% increase in a request for services between domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Read - SLCSD board member resigns after being charged with sexually assaulting child, possessing child porn

Historically, Floyd said they do three to four sexual assault exams a month, now they are doing 12.

Over the Fourth of July weekend in 2020, they did six exams for victims.

"We are one of the highest states for domestic violence and sexual abuse," said Floyd. "One in three is affected by abuse."

A staggering statistic, but Floyd said the increase also indicates the success of the #metoo movement.

"More people feel more comfortable in reporting," said Floyd.

Even though seeing Cosby walk free felt like a sucker punch to victims, Floyd said to never stop reporting rape, sexual assault, or domestic violence.

"The victims did everything they should have done and still, the system failed them," said Floyd.