Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.

Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.

Mark Dent / Billy Penn

Why Bruce Castor never charged Bill Cosby with sexual assault: ‘It was better for justice’

In a hearing today, the former district attorney explained his rationale and the deal he made with the comedian’s lawyer: “I am the sovereign of Montgomery County.”

The former Montgomery County District Attorney told a judge Tuesday morning that he never pressed criminal sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby in the name of “justice.” Bruce Castor didn’t believe he had enough credible evidence to prosecute and wanted the complainant, Andrea Constand, to gain a victory through a civil case. 

Castor, who was District Attorney from 2000 to 2008, is testifying in Norristown at a status hearing for Cosby, charged with sexual assault in a complaint brought by Constand, a former Temple employee.

In order to remove the possibility of Cosby using the fifth amendment and not speak during depositions in a civil case, Castor testified that in 2005 he told Cosby’s lawyer, Walter M. Phillips Jr., that he would not press criminal charges. Castor also said charges would not be pressed not only as himself but — in his words — as the “sovereign of Montgomery County,” so his decision would last for “all time.”

He said he made the deal with Cosby and his attorney not to prosecute so that Cosby wouldn’t plead the fifth during the civil deposition process and Constand would stand a better chance of prevailing in civil court.

“I came to the conclusion there was no way the case could improve, absent Mr. Cosby confessing. I concluded it was better for justice to make a determination that Mr. Cosby would never be arrested,” Castor said. “I did that because of the rules — special rules — prosecutors operate under. While defense counsel are supposed to do everything in their ability legally and ethically to represent their client vigorously and avoid conviction.

“The prosecutor, according to Pennsylvania rules, says that the prosecutor is a minister of justice. And I did not believe it was just to go forward with the criminal prosecution but I wanted there to be some measure of justice,” Castor continued. “So I made the final determination as the sovereign — and not Bruce Castor, District Attorney; I am the sovereign of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. As the sovereign I determined we would not prosecute Mr. Cosby, and that would then set off a chain of events that I thought would gain some justice for Ms. Andrea Constand.”

Castor added that his options under the law and his deal were quite limited.

“My choices were to leave the case open and hope it got better or definitively close the case and allow the civil court to provide redress to Ms. Constand…” Castor testified. “I did not think there was any possibility this case would ever get better.”

The then-District Attorney was trying to work around the Fifth Amendment and its protections against self-incrimination, he explained.

“A person may not be compelled to give evidence against themself. The way you remove that from a witness, if you want to… In this case I made the decision as the sovereign that Mr. Cosby would not be prosecuted no matter what,” Castor said. “As a matter of law that then made it so that he could not take the fifth amendment, ever.”

In articles about the case, media have been referring to the actions taken by Castor to never prosecute as an agreement. He disputed that characterization: “There wasn’t any quid pro quo here. This was a definitive statement by the Commonwealth.”

After finding out a civil case had been initiated and then settled, he said, “I was hopeful that I had made Ms. Constand a millionaire.”

The testimony given by Cosby in that civil case became the basis of the criminal charges he is facing today.

Judge Steven O’Neil called a recess around 12:30, with Castor still being questioned. O’Neil said the hearing could last until tomorrow.

 

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