Pennsylvania District Attorney Candidates Battle it Out Over the 2005 Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Allegations
The two candidates for district attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania are attacking each other with television ads over sexual assault allegations brought against Bill Cosby in 2005.
Just two days after Democratic candidate Kevin Steele released a new television ad, attacking Bruce L. Castor, Jr., a Republican, for not prosecuting Bill Cosby in 2005 when he was district attorney, Castor released his own television ad attacking Steele, who is the county’s current first district attorney, for doing nothing.
“Kevin Steele had the power to help victims of Cosby but he sat on his hands,” Castor, who is now a county commissioner but is running for his old job, says in the TV ad.
Steele says he and Castor differ over how they treat alleged crime victims,which is why he released his ad Oct. 20.
“This ad highlights how he treats victims as opposed to how I handle things,” Steele tells PEOPLE a little less than two weeks out from the November 3 election. “I go after sexual predators.”
G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, called the ad “potentially very devastating” and said it could make a difference in the election “unless there’s some kind of adequate response” from Castor.
“Castor has to deal with the decision he made in 2005 and convince the voters this was a reasonable choice,” Madonna tells PEOPLE.
In January 2005, former Temple employee Andrea Constand told authorities that Cosby, now 78, had drugged and sexually assaulted her at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, mansion the previous January. Castor decided against charging Cosby, citing “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.”
Constand subsequently filed a civil suit against Cosby, which he settled with a confidentiality agreement in late 2006.
In Steele’s new ad, entitled “Trust,” the announcer refers to Castor as “the former DA who refused to prosecute Bill Cosby,” adding, “many more victims came forward and Castor admitted he could have used their testimony against Cosby” but that he “didn’t even try.”
“Bruce Castor is not looking out for the victims,” the ad concludes.
Castor did not respond to requests for comment from PEOPLE but responded to the ad on his Facebook page and with an ad of his own.
“So much for a ‘clean campaign!'” he wrote on Facebook. “I particularly love this quote from the ad: ‘Many more victims came forward, and Castor admitted he could have used their testimony against Cosby. But Castor didn’t even try.’ No kidding. I don’t try because I was no longer the DA when the information became available!”
In the ad, Castor about the Cosby case, saying he did not know the identities of the other accusers while he was in office.
“But Kevin Steele could have done something because he is still a prosecutor,” Castor says in the ad. “Now he’s trying to blame me for his mistakes and incompetence. Despicable desperation politics. Disgusting lies. Kevin Steele had the power to help victims of Cosby but he sat on his hands.”
Steele responds by saying that unlike Castor in 2005, since he is not the district attorney, he does not have the power to make decisions like that.
“In 2005 Castor failed to prosecute Cosby,” he tells PEOPLE. “That is a decision that the district attorney made. I am not the district attorney so the bottom line is I don t get the final call at this point.”
After Constand’s case made headlines in January 2005, about a dozen women contacted Castor’s office saying that they, too, had been drugged and/or sexually assaulted by the entertainer. The women came to Castor before he announced he was not going to arrest Cosby.
Castor acknowledged that multiple women had brought to him complaints that Cosby had behaved in appropriately in his Feb. 18, 2005 press release announcing he would not be filing charges against the entertainer.
“Lastly, the District Attorney reviewed statements from other persons claiming Mr. Cosby behaved inappropriately with them on prior occasions,” the statement said. “However the detectives could find no instance in Mr. Cosby’s past where anyone complained to law enforcement of conduct, which would constitute a criminal offense.”
The list of women accusing Cosby of drugging or sexually assaulting them has now grown to more than 50. Cosby, through his attorney, Martin Singer, has denied all allegations, saying in a statement last November that claims “about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous.” (Cosby has since replaced Singer on two lawsuits filed against him.)
Current District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who is running for judge in Montgomery County, neither confirmed nor denied she has reopened Constand’s case but said in a statement to PEOPLE, “A decision made by one District Attorney may be revisited, at any time up to the expiration of the statute of limitations, either by a new District Attorney and/or because additional evidence has been discovered,” she said in a statement given to PEOPLE.
“Up until the time that the statute of limitations expires, charges can always be brought,” the statement said. “As ministers of justice, I believe prosecutors have a responsibility to review past conclusions, whether their own or a predecessor’s, when current information might lead to a different decision.”
Steele also criticized Castor for his comments on Constand last month on his Twitter and Facebook pages, in which he appeared to question her credibility.
“I think they are examples of belittling a victim,” Steele says. “I think the voters should consider his judgment and I think they should consider how he has treated a victim – that he has made comments about her instead of being compassionate.”
Constand’s attorney, Dolores Troiani and her former law partner Bebe Kivitz, sent Castor an open letter last month blasting him for the comments and demanding an apology and retraction.
“The tweet can only be viewed as a defamatory comment as to the character of our client,” they wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by PEOPLE. “It appears that it is your intention to create an issue regarding our client’s credibility.”
Troiani also alleges that Castor treated Constand poorly when he was investigating the case in 2005.
“He treated Andrea with total disrespect and disregard for her as a victim,” Troiani told PEOPLE last month.
Castor told The Philadelphia Inquirer he didn’t owe Constand an apology.
“I don’t apologize for making decisions based upon the law and the evidence,” he told the paper. “Do I wish that there was evidence [in 2005] that would have supported the arrest of Cosby? Yeah.”