Bill Cosby Allegations At Center Of Pennsylvania DA Race

Nov 1, 2015
Originally published on November 2, 2015 1:43 pm

Bill Cosby's sexual assault scandal has become the biggest issue in a local election outside Philadelphia. Two candidates for Montgomery County District Attorney say the other should have done more to bring Cosby to justice.

At the center of the political battle is an alleged victim: Andrea Constand. She's a former women's basketball administrator at Temple University. She considered Cosby a friend and mentor until, she says, he sexually assaulted her in 2004.

Bruce Castor was the Montgomery County DA back in 2005, when he investigated Constand's allegations. He declined to prosecute saying the case was too weak.

In the decade since dozens more women have come forward. This summer there was a deposition made public, in which Cosby admitted giving Quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex.

Now Castor is running for DA again and says if voters pick him on Tuesday, he would try to bring perjury charges against the comedian.

"What I would do is I would get those depositions. I'd have our people tear them apart word-for-word and try to disprove all the facts in there that were material," Castor told KYW television in July.

Castor is a Republican with good name recognition in Montgomery County. Since leaving the DA's office in 2008 he's served as county commissioner. And the county has a long history of only electing Republican DAs.

The Democrat in the race, Kevin Steele, holds the assistant DA position in Montgomery County now and he's campaigning aggressively for the top job. His television ad paints Castor as "a former DA who refused to prosecute Bill Cosby."

In an interview with WHYY, Castor said, "If Mr. Steele thinks that he has evidence that supports the arrest of anyone, he has the power to go out and make it." And Castor echoed that in his own television ad saying Steele, "chose to do nothing at all."

Steele says that's a "cheap shot" because as a prosecutor he can't respond to it, "because we can't talk about a past or on-going investigation."

It turns out there is an investigation right now. Andrea Constand — the woman who says Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her — revealed that in a lawsuit filed last week. She filed a defamation suit against Castor for comments he made during the campaign — essentially that she didn't tell prosecutors everything a decade back.

In that lawsuit she reveals the current DA has re-opened the Cosby investigation. Prosecutors won't confirm that and Cosby's representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

All this means the usually low-key race for DA in Montgomery County is a topic of conversation on the streets.

Stan Kligman of Elkins Park, Penn., says he's followed the political brawl in the paper. "I think that they ought to be talking about more of the issues than Cosby," he says.

Liz Kentner of Oreland, Penn. says Castor — the former Republican DA — should not get another chance at the job after failing to bring charges in 2005. "I think he should have prosecuted Bill Cosby. I think that he didn't want to go against somebody rich and powerful," she says.

In this race it's tough to say who's ahead since there's no public polling. But each candidate clearly wants voters to think he'll be tougher on Bill Cosby if elected the next Montgomery County DA on Tuesday.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Dozens of women have stepped forward to say they have been sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby. But so far, no criminal charges have been brought against the comedian. The Cosby scandal has now become an issue in a local election in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where Cosby lives. Two candidates for district attorney say the other should have done more to bring Cosby to justice. NPR's Jeff Brady picks up the story.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: This started with a former women's basketball administrator at Temple University. Andrea Constand considered Bill Cosby a friend and mentor until, she says, he sexually assaulted her in 2004. Bruce Castor was the Montgomery County district attorney at the time. He didn't prosecute then, saying the case was too weak. But in the decades since, dozens more women have come forward. Cosby himself admitted giving Quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with in a deposition made public last summer. Now Castor is running for DA again and says if voters pick him on Tuesday, he'll go after Cosby. On the local CBS television station, Castor said he'd look for evidence to charge Cosby with perjury.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRUCE CASTOR: What I would do is I would get those depositions. I'd have our people tear them apart word for word.

BRADY: Castor's Democratic opponent Kevin Steele is running ads that say that's too little too late.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Bruce Castor, a former DA who refused to prosecute Bill Cosby.

BRADY: The thing is, Steele is a current assistant DA, and Castor claims he didn't do anything about the Cosby case either.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

CASTOR: But Kevin Steele could have done something because he is still a prosecutor - who chose to do nothing at all.

BRADY: Steele says that's a cheap shot because there are some things prosecutors have to keep secret.

KEVIN STEELE: I can't speak on that because we can't talk about a past or ongoing investigation.

BRADY: It turns out there is an investigation right now. Andrea Constand, the woman who says Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her, she revealed that in a lawsuit filed last week. She's suing the Republican candidate, Castor, for saying that she changed her story. Prosecutors won't confirm there's an open investigation and Cosby's representatives did not respond to requests for comment. All this means the usually low-key race for DA in Montgomery County is now a topic of conversation on the streets. Stan Kligman says he's followed the political brawl in the paper and doesn't like it.

STAN KLIGMAN: You know, I think that they ought to be talking about more of the issues than Cosby.

BRADY: Liz Kentner says Castor, the former Republican DA, should not get another chance at the job after failing to bring charges in 2005.

LIZ KENTNER: Honestly, I think that he should have prosecuted Bill Cosby. I think that he didn't want to go against somebody rich and powerful and a 1 percenter.

BRADY: Kentner says she'd vote for the Democrat anyway. If Steele wins this race, it would make local history. The county has never before elected a Democrat as district attorney. It's tough to say who's ahead now. There's no public polling. But each candidate clearly wants voters to think he'll be tougher on Bill Cosby if elected on Tuesday. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.