Steele named ‘Trial Lawyer of the Year’
NORRISTOWN >> Montgomery County’s top law enforcement officer, who led the successful prosecutions against former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and actor Bill Cosby, recently was named trial lawyer of the year by the Montgomery Bar Association.
District Attorney Kevin R. Steele received the 2018 James P. Fox Trial Lawyer of the Year Award from the bar association’s trial lawyers section during a recent ceremony. The ceremony, held at the bar association’s headquarters in Norristown, was attended by members of the legal community, the county bench and Steele’s staff and family.
“I am very humbled by this. This is very, very special. It means a lot to me,” Steele said as he accepted the award. “I accept this knowing I didn’t do this on my own. I have this incredible staff of people in the D.A.’s office that are exceptional, exceptional in what they do every single day.
“I’m very proud of our office. I don’t think it’s just one of the best in the state, I think it’s one of the best in the country,” Steele added. “I have to accept (the award) though, not on behalf of myself but on behalf of all those men and women in the office that I work with that do extraordinary things every day and I hope that you’re all as proud of them as I am.”
The James P. Fox award recognizes excellence both inside and outside the courtroom, said Ethan O’Shea, president of the trial lawyers section of the bar association. O’Shea said “it was a fairly easy decision to make” in selecting Steele for the annual honor.
“Unless you have been living in a box, the past two years for our district attorney have been rather extraordinary,” said O’Shea, referring to Steele’s 2016 prosecution of Kane and his prosecution of Cosby at two trials in 2017 and 2018. “Most of us will go our entire careers with not having a trial like that. Mr. Steele had three of them in two years.”
On Aug. 15, 2016, Kane, the first Democrat and the first woman ever elected attorney general, was convicted of charges of perjury, obstructing administration of law, official oppression, false swearing and conspiracy. The jury determined Kane orchestrated the illegal disclosure of secret grand jury information to the media and then engaged in acts designed to conceal and cover up her conduct. Steele and co-prosecutor Michelle Henry argued Kane did so to exact “revenge” on a former state prosecutor with whom she was feuding.
Kane, 52, subsequently was sentenced to a 10-to23-month jail term.
Cosby was convicted by a jury in April of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with the assault of Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletic department employee, after drugging her with “three blue pills” while she visited his Cheltenham residence in January 2004. Cosby, 81, is serving a 3-to-10-year prison term.
It was the second trial for Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992. Cosby’s first trial in June 2017 ended in a mistrial when a jury selected from Allegheny County couldn’t reach a verdict.
During the Cosby tri-
als, Steele and co-prosecutors M. Stewart Ryan and Kristen Feden described Cosby as a trusted mentor who betrayed the friendship he had with Constand and said the criminal case was “about trust … about betrayal.”
In accepting the award, Steele praised Henry, Ryan and Feden for being part of his team during the three high-profile trials.
“In those cases in particular, I’ve had some incredible partners,” Steele said. “Those cases take the willingness to push beyond what you think you’re capable of and that means working nights, weekends and being home after your family has gone to bed and being up and out before they wake up.”
O’Shea said the three, high-profile trials were not the only reasons Steele was selected for the honor.
“Kevin has been working his entire career toward those moments,” said O’Shea, adding Steele runs his office with “dignity, professionalism and excellence.” “Kevin knew what he was meant to be.”
Steele, a graduate of The Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University who also received a Master of Laws Degree in Trial Advocacy from Temple University Law School, joined the district attorney’s office in 1995 after a two-year stint with the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office.
In Montgomery County, Steele served as an assistant prosecutor, captain of the narcotics unit and chief of the trials division before being appointed first assistant in 2008. Steele was elected district attorney in 2015.
Established in 1885 to professionalize the county’s practice of law, the Montgomery Bar Association (MBA) is one of the nation’s oldest and most respected bar associations, representing more than 2,100 legal professionals in Montgomery County. It is the third largest Bar in Pennsylvania.