Days before Bill Cosby’s scheduled sentencing on felony sex assault charges, his wife demanded Monday that a Pennsylvania ethics board investigate the judge over what she says is bias.
Camille Cosby renewed allegations that trial judge Steven O’Neill had a grudge with a key witness, former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, in a 2016 pretrial hearing. O’Neill sent the case to trial afterward, and Cosby was convicted at a retrial this spring of drugging and molesting a woman at his home in the area in 2004.
Camille Cosby traveled to Harrisburg on Monday to file a complaint with the state Judicial Conduct Board.
“My husband was improperly prosecuted in a trial presided over by an unethical judge who seeks to compound his unethical behavior by sentencing Bill Cosby, now 81 years old and unsighted, for a charge that the former DA and the judge’s rival, Mr. Castor, determined was unwarranted and would never be prosecuted,” Camille Cosby said in a statement.
Defense lawyers filed a similar motion in Montgomery County Court last week asking O’Neill to step down before Monday’s sentencing.
Cosby, 81, faces up to 10 years in prison on each of three felony counts, but would likely get far less time under state guidelines. He has been on house arrest at his estate near Philadelphia since the April 26 conviction.
The Cosbys said they’ve hired a former FBI agent to investigate the alleged feud between O’Neill and Castor, the witness at issue, who had declined to prosecute Cosby when accuser Andrea Constand went to police in 2005.
Cosby’s legal team asked O’Neill to step down before the retrial because of his wife’s work as an advocate for sex abuse victims, and previously called the case a political football in the 2015 race for district attorney. Castor was seeking to return to office, but lost to Kevin Steele, who later charged Cosby in the case as more accusers came forward and Cosby’s deposition testimony in Constand’s related civil case was unsealed.
The defense said the alleged O’Neill-Castor feud stemmed from the late 1990s, when they both pursued the job of county prosecutor and O’Neill dated a woman in Castor’s office.
Steele, in a filing last week, called the defense effort to unseat O’Neill “a desperate, 11th-hour attempt . to stop the sentencing.” O’Neill has not ruled on the motion but issued a passionate defense of his judicial independence when he refused to step down before trial.