Actor Bill Cosby arrives at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania for hearing on Tuesday. Cosby is accused of alleged sexual assault.

Actor Bill Cosby arrives at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania for hearing on Tuesday. Cosby is accused of alleged sexual assault.

( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Philadelphia Inquirer / Pool )

Bill Cosby hearing update: Judge halts proceedings as defense presses Bruce Castor

Former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor was on the stand for about an hour in Bill Cosby’s hearing on sexual assault charges today before the judge abruptly halted proceedings and pulled him, the defense and the prosecution into conference.

What started the interruption? Cosby’s attorney, Brian McMonagle asked Castor this: “After you looked at Andrea Constand’s statements to police in 2005 about the assault, what did you think?”

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Castor replied, “and I’m wondering if you should hear that answer in front of the camera first.”

Proceedings in the case are broadcast via closed-circuit camera to an overflow courtroom; Castor was, in effect, asking the judge whether he and the case’s attorneys should hear that answer before everyone in two courtrooms did.

The judge asked whether Castor had a lawyer present; Castor did not. Again, Cosby’s defense attorney asked what Castor thought of the charges.

“Mr McMonagle, if I answer that question accurately…”

Cosby’s attorney cut Castor off, and the judge interrupted proceedings:

McMonagle: “I think he’s trying to…”

Judge: “No, no, don’t, don’t….”

And the judge called the lawyers and the former district attorney into his chambers.

The question about Castor’s opinion of Andrea Constand’s statements to police came after attorneys introduced Castor as a witness. Mostly, the longtime Montgomery County District Attorney talked about his background, and established that he had a big hand in the investigation into Constand’s accusations stemming from an alleged January 2004 assault at Cosby’s home.

The testimony of the former district attorney is critical as Judge Steven O’Neill is today weighing the validity of civil depositions that served as the basis of criminal charges against the comedian. In the 2005 depositions, released this year, Cosby admits to giving women pills and then having sex with them.

However, today’s status hearing was called after reports revealed a verbal deal between Castor, Cosby and his defense attorney at the time — who has since died. Castor apparently promised he wouldn’t prosecute Cosby using the civil depositions as a basis for criminal charges.

Castor told the judge today he was eager to make sure his office handled the case well, since Constand had returned to her native Canada when his office took on the investigation. Castor said today that he wanted to reassure international law enforcement that the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office could handle the investigation of a celebrity.

The hearing continued after the break.

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