Cosby arrives at the courthouse

Cosby arrives at the courthouse

(ED HILLE / The Philadelphia Inquirer/ Pool)

Cosby hearing, day 2: Longtime lawyer confirms Castor deal

The comedian’s defense team began calling witnesses in the status hearing on sexual assault charges, held at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.

A lawyer for Bill Cosby during the 2005 Andrea Constand investigation claimed he knew of a deal that Cosby could never be prosecuted. Just like former Montgomery County D.A. Bruce Castor said yesterday, he said the written proof is in a press release.

“I relied upon combination of the press release signed by Mr. Castor and the assurances given to [Cosby criminal lawyer)] Wally Philips who assured me it was sufficient to the purpose,” said the attorney, John P. Schmitt, during testimony this morning.

Schmitt has represented Cosby to some extent for 30 years, and has been his general counsel. Cosby’s defense team called him as the first witness today.

He said he was told by Phillips in 2005 that Castor verbally gave immunity for Cosby so he would not be able to use the Fifth Amendment in a civil suit deposition, and believed a press release signed by Castor constituted a written guarantee. Schmitt said Cosby sat for deposition four times during the Constand civil suit, and added Cosby would not have been allowed to speak as freely had there not been a guarantee he couldn’t be charged with sexual assault of Constand, a former Temple University manager.

The prosecution, led by Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele, grilled Schmitt on why he didn’t get the statement of immunity in writing, aside from that press release. He pointed out various instances in which Schmitt or Phillips had gotten things in writing, including an agreement with the National Enquirer about a story published in 2005 and Cosby’s original statements with the police and investigators.

Steele asked Schmitt if he had brought up the agreement or the press release during Cosby’s deposition. Schmitt said he hadn’t.

At times, their exchange got testy. Steele yelled questions at Schmitt multiple times. Schmitt responded by saying, “you don’t have to yell at me.”

The hearing continues; Judge Steven O’Neil said he expects to issue a ruling today.

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