Bill Cosby was charged Wednesday with sexual assault in Pennsylvania, and a prominent defence attorney told Business Insider that local politics could complicate the case.
Stuart Slotnick, who is also a former state prosecutor in New York, noted that Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele ran for his current position on a platform that criticised Bruce Castor — his opponent and the former district attorney for the county — for not prosecuting the Cosby case.
“There are TV commercials in which the campaigning candidates criticise each other for their role in prosecuting or not prosecuting Bill Cosby, and that makes this case a local political issue,” Slotnick told Business Insider.
“The defence will no doubt want to bring up the fact that the current DA campaigned on a platform that the former DA was not aggressive enough and should have prosecuted Bill Cosby,” he added.
On Wednesday, Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a first-degree felony. The 78-year-old comedian previously admitted under oath that he had sexual contact with former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who filed a lawsuit against him.
Castor declined to charge Cosby when Constand reported the alleged assault in 2005.
Since then, dozens of other women have come forward and accused Cosby of assault, and Cosby’s testimony in the Constand lawsuit was unsealed.
While he was running for district attorney, Steele aired ads criticising Castor’s decision not to charge Cosby:
At the time, Castor was running against Steele for the district attorney position.
Cosby’s defence team could also point to the intense media scrutiny the allegations have received.
“The defence will want to show that prior to any media pressure and media attention that this case received, a prior prosecutor who was independent looked at the facts, looked at the evidence, and closed the case,” Slotnick said.
“It is only after a political battle and a campaign promise to be tough on Bill Cosby that the current prosecutor had Bill Cosby arrested,” he added.
The defence could use Steele’s campaigning against Castor to its advantage, Slotnick said.
“Prosecutors have their jobs because people vote for them and that’s why this will be part of a pre-trial fight,” he said. “This prosecutor promised to be tough on Bill Cosby and if he’s not tough on Bill Cosby, the next time around it’s going to come up.”
Constand has accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting her at his home in 2004.
When Constand first met Cosby, she was the director of operations for Temple’s women’s basketball team. They developed a friendship and Constand came to see Cosby as a mentor, according to an affidavit in the case. He reportedly offered her career advice, introduced her to people, and invited her to events.
Before the alleged sexual assault occurred, according to the affidavit, he made multiple sexual advances that Constand rejected.
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