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Here's the lawyer who got Bill Cosby's conviction tossed

3 minute read

Bill Cosby stands next to his spokesman Andrew Wyatt and lawyer Jennifer Bonjean outside Cosby's home after Pennsylvania's highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction and ordered him released from prison immediately, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mark Makela

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In December, Manhattan-based lawyer Jennifer Bonjean appeared before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to argue that it should overturn Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction.

On Wednesday the court agreed, finding a non-prosecution deal the comedian had struck with a previous district attorney should have shielded him from charges.

Bonjean, who did not respond to a request for comment, has made prior headlines for lodging police brutality claims on behalf of her clients as well as representing Keith Raniere, the founder of the infamous sex cult, NXIVM. Here are a few things to know about Bonjean.

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On her firm's website, Bonjean said her experience as a rape crisis counselor and victim's rights advocate at the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago influenced her decision to attend law school, and that in law school she "began to identify with the underdog, which in the criminal justice system is the accused."

After graduating from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, she got her start representing criminal defendants in Illinois courts. Bonjean's legal career began at the Office of the State Appellate Defender, which represents criminal defendants in Illinois appellate courtrooms.

Since launching her own law firm in 2007, Bonjean Law Group, Bonjean has built a practice out of representing victims of police brutality. Several of her clients are men who said they were tortured or coerced by Chicago police officers into confessing crimes they did not commit and were released from prison years later.

In March 2020, a federal jury awarded $5.2 million to Stanley Wrice, one of Bonjean's clients, after it found that he was coerced by Chicago police officers into confessing to a 1982 gang rape he did not commit. Wrice was initially convicted and sentenced to 100 years in prison.

Bonjean handled the appeal for Raniere, the founder of NXIVM where prosecutors said women were kept on starvation diets, branded with his initials, and ordered to have sex with him. Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison in October; former "Smallville" actor Allison Mack was sentenced to three years in prison for her involvement in Raniere's cult on Wednesday.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in June 2017 rebuked Bonjean for her comments to the federal judge overseeing a mortgage fraud case she was working on. Bonjean accused U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle of "advocating for the government" and "abdicating your job as a judge."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include more details about Bonjean.

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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