Judge Keeps Bill Cosby Assault Charge Intact

     NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – It is not too late to prosecute Bill Cosby on assault allegations thrown out more than a decade ago, a judge ruled Wednesday.
     The afternoon ruling in Montgomery County District Court advances the only criminal charge against Cosby to come from more than six dozen women who have spoken out in the past year about their encounters with the 78-year-old comedian, dating back to the 1960s.
     Cosby looked confident while walking into court Wednesday, wearing a smile and a crisp brown suit. As supporters greeted him with messages like “Good luck, Bill,” and “You got this,” Cosby gave a thumbs-up and waved to the throng.
     The comedian’s accuser in this case, Andrea Constand, narrowly hurdled a 12-year statute of limitations to seek justice for a 2004 meeting with Cosby in which she says he drugged and assaulted her at the Cosby home in Cheltenham, Pa.
     Constand waited a year after the alleged attack, however, to tell Montgomery County police – a delay the prosecutor in office at the time, Bruce Castor, said he found suspicious.
     Castor spent seven hours on the stand Tuesday, testifying about his decision not to bring charges back in 2005 against Cosby.
     Though Castor seemed to deliver a slam-dunk for Cosby’s team – describing Constand as unreliable and out for Cosby’s money – he also claimed to support his successors in the DA’s office, saying he wanted the prosecution to win.
     Before the court adjourned for lunch Wednesday, District Attorney Kevin Steele pointed to Castor’s admission under cross-examination “that if any evidence surfaced he would revisit the decision to close the case.”
     Judge Steven O’Neill interrupted to emphasize the court’s duty “to look at inconsistencies.”
     On the stand Tuesday, the judge said, Castor clarified that when he used the word “revisiting,” he was referring to what he would say to the press, not to reconsider opening the case.
     Steele became agitated.
     “There is no agreement and no quid quo pro that relates to this,” the DA said. “A wealthy defendant should not be able to buy his way out of case!”
     Brian McMonagle, representing Cosby, insisted there is an “agreement” that bars this case.
     “There was a promise, an agreement, an obligation, a commitment, an undertaking or a decision, whatever word you want to use,” McMonagle said, which conveyed that Cosby would not be prosecuted.
     “That promise 11 or 12 years ago on which he [Cosby] has relied to his detriment,” the attorney added.
     Constand’s attorney, Dolores Troiani, testified about Castor’s 2005 news release in a turn on the stand Wednesday afternoon, saying it “surprised” her.
     In a nod to Cosby’s famously family-friendly television character, Troiani speculated that Castor made the announcement because “he was running for office, and he didn’t want to alienate fans of Dr. Huxtable.”
     Eleven years have passed since Constand’s case first hist Castor’s desk, but the former DA’s motivations still face scrutiny. Indeed, Constand slapped Castor with a civil defamation complaint last year related to comments he made about her while campaigning unsuccessfully last year to regain his old DA job – in an election that turned largely on his failure to prosecute Cosby in 2005.
     Judge O’Neill snapped today when Castor’s possible political motivations came up again, telling DA Steele that his court is not the appropriate forum to voice such opinions.
     O’Neil directed the prosecutor to keep his questions “within the bounds” of the context of the hearing. “We are not litigating the case,” he said.
     Much of Wednesday’s proceedings turned on damning deposition testimony from the civil case Constand filed against Cosby in 2005 and ultimately settled.
     Unsealed by a federal judge in the months before Cosby’s arrest, the deposition transcript shows Cosby admitting to buying quaaludes to give to women before having sex with them.
     When Cosby’s general counsel, John Schmitt, took the witness stand this morning, he said he had no idea Montgomery prosecutors would try to reopen the criminal case connected to Constand.
     “I would not have let him [Cosby] sit for a deposition” if I had known, Schmitt said.
     Despite knowing Cosby faced an ongoing investigation in 2005, Schmitt said he let his client answer all the deposition questions and make statements in what became an 18-page document.
     Troiani meanwhile painted the deposition as more contentious, saying Cosby had to be ordered to answer various questions.
     Constand revisited the case when the media frenzy over Cosby erupted in late 2014, the attorney said, noting that her client was hurt and “slammed.”
     “The DA came to my office and asked me to ask my client if she would have the stamina to do this again,” Troiani said.
     Schmitt countered that he had no reason to think the 2005 deposition would affect his client because he understood that the commonwealth would not proceed on criminal charges.
     “I have a signed statement from the prosecutor,” Schmitt said.
     Schmitt specializes in corporate law so he brings in civil lawyers for civil litigations. In 2005, he used Patrick O’Connor, an attorney from Cozen O’Connor.
     Schmitt said he was comfortable with O’Connor “and his procedure, like ‘usual stipulations’ during the deposition.”He also had Cosby’s criminal attorney, Walter Phillips, weighing in.
     “Mr. Phillips had assurances from Mr. Castor that this was an irrefutable decision that he had made,” said Schmitt.
     Since Castor’s press release never mentioned the possibility of reopening the criminal case, Schmitt said he operated under that understanding when advising Cosby.
     “The DA agreed irrevocably that there would be not prosecution,” Schmitt said.
     Though District Attorney Kevin Steele noted that the 2005 press release included the word “reconsidering,” Schmitt said he understood that wording to mean that Castor would reconsider speaking to the press, not reconsider a criminal matter.
     “There is no context to the criminal matter,” Schmitt said.
     Cosby had been a trustee at Temple University when he met Constand, who worked at the university from December 2001 to March 2004 as director of operations for the women’s basketball team.

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