Desperate times often require desperate measures and Bill Cosby, facing decades behind bars and designation as a sexually violent predator, is relying on a Hail Mary pass to at least pause his upcoming sentencing for the 2004 rape of a Temple University employee.
Already trying to thwart the Montgomery County District Attorney’s move to have dozens of alleged victims of the much-accused actor speak at the September 24 starting sentencing hearing, Cosby and his wife Camille today are returning to an old tactic with new terms. The actor and his new-ish legal team are making another attempt to have the Pennsylvania judge who oversaw both the 2017 mistrial and this spring’s guilty verdict declaring retrial remove himself from the case.
In April, a jury of seven men and five women returned guilty verdicts on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for the now 81-year-old Cosby’s sexual assault of Andrea Constand over 14 years ago. An expected two-day hearing later this month will see sentencing finally handed out by Judge Steven O’Neill in the matter, at least before the now widely disgraced Cosby inevitably appeals.
“Defendant respectfully requests that this Honorable Court disclose, on the record, the true facts of his interactions with Mr. Castor beginning with the 1998 prelude to the 1999 election campaign for District Attorney,” a motion filing from Cosby’s latest defense lawyer Joseph P. Green made public Tuesday says (read it here). In a renewed three-pronged attack on Judge O’Neil, Cosby and his team assert that an old personal dispute between former Montgomery County D.A. Bruce Castor taints the Keystone State judge’s ability to “possibly be impartial” in the matter.
Back in March, Judge O’Neill quickly denied a previous motion for his recusal from the case by Cosby’s now-canned lawyers. Then the Judge told his Norristown, PA courtroom that the actor’s attorneys had failed to present evidence of bias on his part in the case because of his wife’s involvement with an advocacy group for sexual assault victims.
Now, with the new thrust against O’Neill, the whole thing will grind to a halt very soon if Camille Cosby has her way.
“That this judge would hide his bias and decide that his rival, the former D.A., could not be trusted to give truthful testimony, shows that the judge let his own personal feelings override Mr. Cosby’s right to a fair trial,” said the actor’s spouse Tuesday in a very personal and public swing at Judge Steven O’Neill. “If a judge would do this in a case as high-profile as this one, then he cannot be trusted to be a fair judge for anyone else either.” (read Camille Cosby’s full statement below)
A bitter foe of current Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele too, the politically ambitious Castor declined to prosecute Cosby years ago when allegations of the alleged assault upon Constand first became known. He has also repeatedly spoken out in court and to the media the past couple of years defending that decision. According to documents put on the Pennsylvania court’s docket today by Cosby’s lawyers, Castor may have leaked to a tabloid the tale of the supposed acrimony between himself and O’Neill, which doesn’t exactly boost his own credibility.
Put together and with the calendar closing in on that sentencing hearing in just a couple of weeks, this is all part of the wide last ditch net Cosby’s team is casting about this week.
“Defendant offers this Memorandum in support of his request that the Court make certain disclosures regarding prior interactions with Bruce Castor, and thereafter vacate its prior ruling denying defendant’s Petition For Writ of Habeas Corpus and recuse from further proceedings thereon,” another filing accompanying today’s motion adds, requesting a hearing on the issues ASAP (read it here). “Further, defendant requests that the Court reconsider its prior decision to deny recusal now that the Court is being asked to act as fact-finder prior to and at sentencing.”
Or as Camille Cosby says in her PR statement put out by reps for the family: “Judge O’Neill must provide a full accounting of his bias against the former D.A., and correct the horrible injustice done to Mr. Cosby and to our system of justice.”
Certainly, many have already made their judgement of Cosby as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences booted him out earlier this year and dozens of honors have been stripped from the once beloved actor.
More than 60 women have claimed in recent years that Cosby sexually assaulted or drugged them, with some incidents occurring as far back the late 1960s. He stood trial on criminal charges in Pennsylvania because the state has a much longer statute of limitations on sex crimes than most jurisdictions; several other civil cases around the nation are pending. Cosby was arraigned December 30, 2015 in the criminal case and released on $1 million bail.
Despite admitting in depositions more than a decade ago to giving Constand Benadryl pills on the night of the alleged assault in his Philadelphia-area mansion nearly 13 years ago, Cosby has insisted through various investigations and two trials that the encounter with the ex-Temple University employee was consensual.
Obviously, the jury in April did not agree. We’ll see if Judge O’Neill takes the unique position to agree he should step aside as Mr. and Mrs. Cosby are urging . in an order issued soon after the Cosby filing, the Judge has given the D.A. until September 14 to file a response if they want to.
Here is Camille Cosby’s full statement of today:
The right to a fair trial is universally regarded as a fundamental one, guaranteed both by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and by Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the United States, that right requires that judges be fair and impartial.
Bill Cosby was not afforded an impartial judge and he did not receive a fair trial. Instead, my husband was forced to go to trial before a judge, Steven T. O’Neill, who had a bitter, longstanding feud with one of the key witnesses in the case, Bruce Castor, the former District Attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Castor testified under oath that when he was D.A. in 2006, he made a binding decision that because the evidence was weak, Mr. Cosby would never be prosecuted in this case, and that as a result of that decision, Mr. Cosby no longer had the right to remain silent and would be required to give a deposition in a civil lawsuit.
Incredibly, Judge O’Neill refused to believe the sworn testimony of the former DA. What Judge O’Neill failed to disclose but which has now come to light is that Judge O’Neill had a personal feud with Mr. Castor that started before Judge O’Neill became a judge. In 1999, Judge O’Neill and Mr. Castor ran against each other in the 1999 campaign to become D.A. At an important debate during the campaign, Mr. Castor, knowing that Judge O’Neill, while previously separated from his wife, had been in a romantic relationship with a female assistant D.A., ordered the assistant to appear at the debate to visibly show support for Mr. Castor. Embarrassed in this manner, Judge O’Neill performed poorly at the debate and withdrew from the race.
Mr. Castor went on to win the D.A. election and Judge O’Neill became a judge. In 2014, Kevin Steele beat Mr. Castor in an election and became D.A. Mr. Steele decided to prosecute Mr. Cosby, and Judge O’Neill was assigned to the case. Mr. Cosby filed a motion to dismiss because of the binding promise by the then D.A. not to prosecute. At a hearing, Mr. Castor testified under oath that the alleged victim had “ruined her credibility” with her own inconsistent statements and that an investigation had determined that the unproven accusations from other women were unreliable. Mr. Castor testified that as a result, he made a binding statement on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania not to prosecute Mr. Cosby.
Judge O’Neill refused to believe this sworn testimony by his rival, the former D.A., and denied the motion to dismiss.
The public, and Mr. Cosby, were entitled to know about Judge O’Neill’s bias before the judge made these rulings. That this judge would hide his bias and decide that his rival, the former D.A., could not be trusted to give truthful testimony, shows that the judge let his own personal feelings override Mr. Cosby’s right to a fair trial. If a judge would do this in a case as high-profile as this one, then he cannot be trusted to be a fair judge for anyone else either. Judge O’Neill must provide a full accounting of his bias against the former D.A., and correct the horrible injustice done to Mr. Cosby and to our system of justice.