A suburban Philadelphia judge who refused to throw out Bill Cosby’s criminal case after his arrest will keep the case through trial.
Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill this year rejected defense efforts to toss the case over a supposed 2005 non-prosecution agreement between Cosby and a former prosecutor.
Cosby, 78, was charged in December with sexually assaulting a female friend in 2004. District Attorney Kevin Steele brought the charges after the case was reopened last year and the 12-year statute of limitations loomed.
Lawyers who know O’Neill say his early decisions don’t necessarily point to how he might rule on the evidence at trial. The defense hopes to limit testimony from other women accusers who have come forward and keep out Cosby’s deposition from a related lawsuit.
“If anybody thinks that because of his prior rulings in this case, and because of his prior background as a prosecutor, he is going to automatically admit all the prior bad acts (allegations), they’re mistaken,” said lawyer Jeffrey M. Lindy, who has appeared before O’Neill. “I think he’s going to split the baby, so to speak: exclude some (accusers) and let others in.”
The Times Herald of Norristown first reported last week on O’Neill’s appointment to the case.
O’Neill, 62, took the bench in 2002, and has won accolades for his work running the county’s rehabilitation-focused drug court for the past 10 years.
True to form, he minced few words in handling the 2007 drug and gun arrests of former Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid’s two sons, calling the coach’s home “a drug emporium” stocked with both illegal and prescription drugs. Both young men went to jail for a time, but also worked with O’Neill to seek help. One son died of an overdose five years later.
“He takes the plight of these young men and women … seriously,” Lindy said. “He’s very, very concerned about them breaking the cycle of addiction.”
In 2014, O’Neill handled the death-penalty trial of a young technology worker who, beset by gambling debts, killed an infant and grandmother in a botched kidnapping.
Cosby has not been given a trial date, but a lower-court judge upheld the charges after a May 24 preliminary hearing. He is accused of drugging and molesting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. He has called the encounter consensual.
Cosby has waived his right to be formally arraigned on the charges this summer.