Cosby wants sen­tenc­ing judge out

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

Two weeks be­fore Bill Cosby is to be sen­tenced for sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a woman at his Chel­tenham man­sion in 2004, his lawyers have asked the sen­tenc­ing judge to re­cuse him­self from the case.

Cosby’s lawyers claim Mont­gomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill had a long­stand­ing feud with one­time for­mer District At­tor­ney Bruce L. Cas­tor Jr., stem­ming from their 1999 battle for the GOP nom­i­na­tion for district at­tor­ney, which was se­cured by Cas­tor, and called into ques­tion O’Neill’s Feb. 4, 2016, rul­ing re­ject­ing Cosby’s claim he had a prom­ise from Cas­tor that he would never be pros­e­cuted for the 2004 sex­ual as­sault.

When O’Neill de­nied Cosby’s re­quest to dis­miss the charges in Fe­bru­ary 2016 “and made an ad­verse cred­i­bil­ity de­ter­mi­na­tion re­gard­ing Mr. Cas­tor,” O’Neill should have dis­qual­i­fied him­self be­cause his “im­par­tial­ity might rea­son­ably be ques­tioned” due to his “per­sonal knowl­edge of and bias against Mr. Cas­tor,” de­fense lawyer Joseph P. Green Jr. wrote in court pa­pers filed on Sept. 11.

“The court made no dis­clo­sures, at any time be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter the hear­ing, that

the court had long been em­broiled in a per­sonal con­flict with Mr. Cas­tor that can only be de­scribed as nasty…that would cause any rea­son­able per­son, in­clud­ing any rea­son­able judge…to con­clude that the court could not pos­si­bly be im­par­tial re­gard­ing Mr. Cas­tor’s cred­i­bil­ity,” Green wrote in court pa­pers.

“Through­out his terms on the bench, Judge O’Neill’s re­la­tion­ship with Cas­tor, serv­ing as district at­tor­ney and

later as a county com­mis­sioner, has re­mained hos­tile and ac­ri­mo­nious,” ar­gued Green, who his be­ing as­sisted by Ard­more lawyer Peter Gold­berger.

Calls made by Cosby’s pre­vi­ous lawyers for O’Neill to re­cuse him­self were pre­vi­ously de­nied.

Green sug­gested O’Neill should re­con­sider re­cus­ing him­self as he is now be­ing asked to serve as the factfinder at Cosby’s sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, which is sched­uled to com­mence on Sept. 24.

A jury of seven men and five women de­lib­er­ated about 14 hours over two days be­fore

con­vict­ing Cosby on April 26 of the three felony charges in con­nec­tion with sex­u­ally as­sault­ing An­drea Con­stand, a for­mer Tem­ple Univer­sity ath­letic depart­ment em­ployee, af­ter ply­ing her with “three blue pills,” at his Chel­tenham man­sion in Jan­uary 2004.

Cosby’s wife, Camille, is­sued a state­ment on Sept. 11 call­ing on O’Neill to “pro­vide a full ac­count­ing of his bias against” Cas­tor “and cor­rect the hor­ri­ble in­jus­tice done to Mr. Cosby and to our sys­tem of jus­tice.”

It’s un­clear if O’Neill will hold a hear­ing on the lat­est

re­quest by Cosby’s de­fense team.

District At­tor­ney Kevin R. Steele char­ac­ter­ized Cosby’s lat­est re­quest as “des­per­ate.”

“This de­fense fil­ing is simply a des­per­ate, 11th-hour at­tempt by Cosby’s cur­rent set of at­tor­neys to stop the sen­tenc­ing of a con­victed felon for his crimes,” Steele said. “This mo­tion re­flects the fact that the de­fen­dant ac­cepts no re­spon­si­bil­ity for his own ac­tions. We will be fil­ing a re­sponse.”

Dur­ing a Feb. 2, 2016, hear­ing at which Cosby’s lawyers sought a dis­missal of the

charges, Cas­tor, district at­tor­ney from 2000 to 2008, claimed he made a bind­ing prom­ise to Cosby and his then lawyer in 2005 that Cosby would never be pros­e­cuted in con­nec­tion with Con­stand’s al­le­ga­tions. Stop­ping short of call­ing his de­ci­sion an “agree­ment,” Cas­tor claimed he alone as a “sovereign” en­tity had the author­ity to make a bind­ing de­ci­sion. Cas­tor tes­ti­fied, “Mr. Cosby was not get­ting pros­e­cuted ever, as far as I was con­cerned.”

In a care­fully worded or­der on Feb. 4, 2016, O’Neill said he based his de­ci­sion not to dis­miss charges against

Cosby on the ar­gu­ments of lawyers and the tes­ti­mony of wit­nesses dur­ing the hear­ing, in­di­cat­ing “a cred­i­bil­ity de­ter­mi­na­tion” also was “an in­her­ent part” of his de­ci­sion.

O’Neill has al­lowed Cosby to re­main free on bail, 10 per­cent of $1 mil­lion, to await sen­tenc­ing. The en­ter­tainer must wear an elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing de­vice while he re­mains free. Cosby can­not leave the state with­out ap­proval of the judge.

Cosby, who turned 81 in July, faces a pos­si­ble max­i­mum sen­tence of 15 to 30 years in prison on the charges.

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