Pa.’s new attorney general declined to charge Bill Cosby in 2005
HARRISBURG — The former county prosecutor who has taken over for Pennsylvania’s convicted attorney general is a central figure in the Bill Cosby case, having chosen a decade ago not to charge the entertainer with sex assault and saying when called by Cosby’s lawyers as a witness this year that his decision was binding.
Bruce Castor Jr., 54, was sworn in at 5 p.m. Wednesday as the state’s acting attorney general. He is succeeding — for no more than a few months — Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who resigned as attorney general following her conviction on charges she abused the powers of her office by leaking secret grand jury information to smear a rival and lied under oath to cover it up.
Castor said he was sworn in at a small ceremony in the Supreme Court chambers at the Capitol. Superior Court President Judge Susan Gantman administered the oath of office. Castor had been Kane’s first deputy, who by law became acting attorney general as soon as the vacancy occurred.
Exactly how Kane tendered her resignation was not clear. It was not turned into Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Jeffrey Sheridan, the governor’s spokesman, said the governor’s lawyers could find no requirement that she do so.
A jury of six men and six women on Monday convicted Kane, 50, of Scranton, of perjury, obstruction of justice and official oppression.
Castor, 54, is a former Montgomery County district attorney and a county commissioner.
This past fall, he made an unsuccessful bid to return as the county’s top prosecutor in a race during which his opponent criticized him for not pursuing charges against Cosby in 2005.
The district attorney-elect ended up filing a felony sex assault charge against Cosby, the married comic once known as “America’s Dad” for his portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on his top-rated 1980s TV show. Cosby has denied wrongdoing.
Castor emerged as a key witness at a hearing in February at which Cosby’s lawyers tried to have the comedian’s case thrown out.
Castor testified that he had promised Cosby that he would never be charged over a former Temple University employee’s allegation that he molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. But a judge rejected his claim after prosecutors cited inconsistencies in Castor’s accounts and challenged his credibility.
“I thought making Mr. Cosby pay money was the best I was going to be able to set the stage for,” Castor testified, noting that the woman who brought the complaint could instead pursue a civil lawsuit, which she did.
Not long after that testimony, Kane tapped Castor as her second-in-command, her powers diminished when she was stripped of her law license by the state’s highest court. He was named first deputy attorney general last month.
Castor, a Republican, has not received any pledges of support from Wolf or the state’s top lawmakers. The governor has the authority to appoint Kane’s replacement, with two-thirds approval of the Republican-controlled Senate, for the five months until the successor picked in the November election is sworn in Jan. 17.
Castor ran for attorney general in 2004, losing in an expensive and hotly contested Republican primary to Tom Corbett, who later became governor.