Bill Cosby’s Fate Could Hinge on a Small-Town Election
In 2005, former Temple University employee Andrea Constand reported to police that Bill Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her at his Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, home a year earlier, making her one of the first woman to publicly accuse Cosby of sexual assault.
After interviewing Cosby and reviewing statements from “other persons claiming that Mr. Cosby behaved inappropriately with them on prior occasions,” then Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor, Jr. declined to file charges against Cosby related to the alleged incident.
His decision not to file charges came up again last year after a video clip of comedian Hannibal Buress calling Cosby a rapist went viral, setting the stage for dozens more women to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Cosby – many of them with stories similar to Constand’s.
Castor left the DA’s office in 2008; now, the Montgomery County DA is Risa Vetri Ferman. According to court documents filed by Constand’s attorneys, Ferman quietly re-opened the criminal investigation into Cosby related to Constand’s allegations at some point this year. The statute of limitations in the case will expire in January.
Ferman has not confirmed or denied re-opening the case, though in a recent statement she said, “I believe prosecutors have a responsibility to review past conclusions, whether their own or a predecessor’s, when current information might lead to a different decision.” The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that prosecutors could be weeks away from charging Cosby in the case. (Ferman did not respond to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.)
How that prosecution plays out could depend in part on the outcome of an obscure county election in suburban Philadelphia.
Ferman is leaving office to run for a county court judgeship, which leaves her DA seat up for grabs in Tuesday’s election. If the case is in fact open, as asserted by Constand’s attorney and the local press, the winner of that race will inherit the Cosby investigation.
One candidate is the county’s current first assistant district attorney, Democrat Kevin Steele. His Republican opponent is Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor – the same Bruce Castor who, as county DA back in 2005, decided not to file charges against Cosby.
According to local reports from a decade ago, “Just hours after detectives interviewed Cosby, Castor portrayed the case as weak and said the victim’s delay in reporting the offense hurt the case.” He also said at the time, “In Pennsylvania, we charge people for criminal conduct. We don’t charge people for making a mistake or doing something foolish.”
Castor didn’t hold a press conference to announce his decision to not file charges against Cosby; instead, he issued a late-afternoon press release, which read in part, “[T]he District Attorney finds insufficient, credible, and admissible evidence exists upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt.” It also said that “persons on both sides of the issue” could be portrayed in “a less than flattering light,” and encouraged the parties to resolve their dispute “with a minimum of rhetoric.”
Constand’s lawyer, Dolores Troiani, has said she learned about Castor’s decision through the press. In response, she publicly criticized both Castor and the investigation.
“I think the fact that [Constand] wasn’t notified in advance speaks volumes about the manner in which the investigation was conducted by Mr. Castor,” she said. “This is inexplicable conduct.” Castor claimed he faxed Troiani a copy of the press release.
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