Monday, February 1, 2016

Montco Prepares for Cosby Hearing

Montgomery County Courthouse/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
Courthouse employees were buzzing today about entertainer Bill Cosby’s scheduled appearance here tomorrow for a hearing on his request to dismiss alleged sex assault charges lodged against him Dec. 30. Parking restrictions were set to go into effect outside the courthouse from 6 p.m. tonight until 4 p.m. Feb. 2 to make way for satellite trucks, from various new organizations, expected to converge on the courthouse overnight.

Cosby’s hearing gets underway at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Security will be tight and media restrictions are in place.

During what is expected to be a moment of high courtroom drama, newly-elected Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, who on Dec. 30 charged Cosby with the alleged 2004 sexual assault of a woman at his Cheltenham home, will have to fight a defense claim that former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. entered into a valid “non-prosecution” agreement with Cosby and his then lawyer in 2005.
Judge Steven T. O'Neill/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Judge Steven T. O’Neill must decide if the so-called non-prosecution agreement is valid and rule on a request by Cosby’s defense team to dismiss charges of aggravated indecent assault against Cosby.

O’Neill’s ruling will determine if the prosecution moves forward and if Cosby, 78, eventually has a preliminary hearing on the charges.

“The question is going to be whether or not that’s a legally binding contract between lawyers, which it may be, but then the next question is going to be whether or not that legally binding contract continues forward ad infinitum for the rest of our lives when a new regime comes in,” Cary B. McClain, a Lower Merion defense lawyer who is unconnected to the Cosby case, summed up the dilemma as a legal observer.
Defense lawyer Cary B. McClain/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

“Will a judge find that that agreement between Bruce Castor and Bruce Castor’s office is binding against Kevin Steele and Kevin Steele’s office? That’s the big question,” McClain added.

The legal duel, which is expected to attract worldwide media attention by celebrity watchers, pits against each other, in a very public forum, two political rivals who battled for the district attorney’s post during a sometimes heated campaign back in November. Castor, a 55-year-old Lower Salford Republican who served as district attorney from 2000 to 2008, lost his bid to regain the seat from Steele, a 48-year-old Lower Merion Democrat, in November’s contest.

District Attorney Kevin R. Steele/Submitted Photo

During the campaign, Steele, who was then first assistant district attorney, in a 30-second television ad,  attacked Castor for not charging Cosby in 2005 when former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand first claimed Cosby sexually assaulted her at his Cheltenham home.

Castor has claimed there wasn’t enough “reliable and admissible” evidence to prosecute Cosby in 2005.

During an interview last November, after the election, Castor called Steele’s campaign tactics “appalling.”

“I believe the long term consequences of the behavior in this case will be severe and will have a dramatic and negative impact on the office’s ability to prosecute Cosby,” Castor said during a candid interview one day after losing the Nov. 3 election.

“Should they actually go ahead and arrest Cosby, I’d be very surprised if there weren’t a very contentious series of motions to disqualify the district attorney’s office by virtue of the fact that the new boss (Steele) has already told the public, in his opinion, that Cosby is guilty,” Castor said at that time. “I think that that will cause a monumental problem if in fact the county decides to go ahead against Cosby.
Bruce L. Castor Jr./submitted photo

“And they can’t very well refer the case to the attorney general since they’re prosecuting the attorney general,” Castor added in November, referring to the pending prosecution of Kathleen Kane for alleged perjury. “So since there’s no other option in Pennsylvania for prosecution, aside from the D.A. and the attorney general because we have no special prosecutor statute, I think a whole series of issues are injected into the case.”

Cosby’s lawyers have already asked a judge to disqualify Steele’s office from prosecuting Cosby.

All eyes will be on Castor if he indeed is called to testify at Cosby's hearing Tuesday.

Mr. Everybody’s Business and @MontcoCourtNews will be watching every move.

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