Culture

Judge Denies Bill Cosby’s Request To Have Sexual Assault Case Thrown Out

CREDIT: Ed Hille/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

Bill Cosby arrives for a court appearance Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Norristown, Pa.

Over 50 women have accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct. But there is only one criminal case against him, and this week, he tried to get a judge to throw that case out. On Wednesday, after a two-day hearing, a judge denied Cosby’s request.

Cosby’s lawyers attempted to have the case dismissed on the basis of an alleged promise that former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor made to Cosby in 2005. Andrea Constand, then a Temple University basketball administrator, alleged that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004. Cosby says the encounter was consensual. Castor did not bring charges against Cosby at the time, citing “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.

Cosby and Constand settled in civil court in 2006 and, as Cosby’s lawyers tell it, Castor assured Cosby that he would not be prosecuted in the Constand case. That promise, Cosby claims, should extend to all future holders of the district attorney’s office. That decision led Cosby to testify “freely” in Constand’s civil suit, resulting in the deposition, released late last year, in which Cosby admits to getting Quaaludes to use on “young women that [he] wanted to have sex with.”

The hearing was a double loss for Cosby, who also tried to disqualify District Attorney Kevin Steele from the case. Steele has only been D.A. for a few months; he ran against Castor, invoking Castor’s failure to prosecute Cosby as part of his platform. Cosby’s lawyers accused Steele of treating Cosby as “political football” during that campaign. (Castor, too, ran on the Cosby case, telling voters that he would try to bring perjury charges against the comedian.)

At the hearing, Castor testified that he did promise Cosby there would be no future prosecution from the district attorney’s office. Cosby’s lawyers claim Cosby never would have testified in Constand’s civil case — a deposition that has introduced the closest thing there is to a smoking gun in the multitude of sexual assault allegations against Cosby — had they known criminal charges were still a possibility.

For Steele’s part, he insisted that Castor never had the authority to forbid future district attorneys from prosecuting Cosby and raised doubts that the alleged agreement had really taken place. There is no documentation to verify that it occurred and Cosby’s then-attorney is dead.

According to the AP, Judge Steven O’Neill cited “witness credibility” as a factor in his ruling. He also “struggled to find similar cases where a suspect who was never charged received a promise that he would never be prosecuted. Normally, immunity is granted after a suspect is charged because he or she can provide testimony or information to prosecutors.”

Next up: A preliminary hearing, scheduled for March 8, to decide if prosecutors have enough evidence to put Cosby on trial. If Cosby, 78, is ultimately convicted, he could face between five and ten years in prison.