On April 2, Bill Cosby will be in court again on sexual assault charges after his last trial ended in a hung jury. The actor's defense team had attempted to get the judge in the case to recuse himself, citing his wife's work with sexual assault survivors. But in a strongly-worded statement Thursday, the judge in the Cosby case said he will not recuse himself, defending his marriage and condemning Cosby's attorneys for casting doubt on his ability to be impartial in the case.
"[My wife] is a strong and independent person," Judge Steven T. O'Neill said, according to CNN. "She holds absolutely no interest in the case ... beyond the interest of any person with a strong view of the issues that impact this nation." He added that "the premise that the defense built, the assumption that this court could not be impartial, is faulty, plain and simple." According to CNN, O'Neill grew emotional during his remarks, choking up at times and pausing his speech.
Over 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, and he is on trial for allegedly drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia compound in 2004. Cosby denies all allegations of non-consensual sex, although he acknowledges having had a sexual encounter with Constand that night.
O'Neill's wife is a social worker and coordinator of the Sexual Trauma Treatment Outreach and Prevention team at the University of Pennsylvania, according to court documents. Cosby's lawyers had filed a pretrial motion arguing that O'Neill's wife's work made it impossible for him to rule impartially on the case, and that he should thus recuse himself. Cosby's team further said that O'Neill's wife made a $100 donation to a group that itself had given money to an organization that planned anti-Cosby protests.
But O'Neill was unswayed.
“How are my wife’s independent views of an independent woman connected to me?” O’Neill said. “She’s an independent woman and has the right to be involved in anything that she believes in.”
Both Constand and Cosby acknowledge that she came to his house in 2004, when she was director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team. They also agree that Cosby gave her some type of pills, and that they then had a sexual encounter. In a 2004-2005 deposition, Cosby claimed that he gave her over-the-counter Benadryl, but told her it was "herbal medication."
However, Constand told investigators that she became immobile and couldn't speak after taking the pills, and that Cosby proceeded to "fondl[e] her breasts, put his hand into her pants and penetrat[e] her vagina with his fingers."
In his deposition, Cosby said that Constand "took her hand and put it on top of my hand to push it in further." He characterized the encounter as "awkward" and "uncomfortable for her," and acknowledged that Constand never gave him verbal consent to engage with her.
"I don’t hear her say anything," Cosby, speaking in the present tense, said in that deposition. "And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped." When asked to expand on what he meant by this, Cosby said that "there's a certain area with a woman, which I imagine if she doesn't want she will stop you there."
In other portions of his 2004-2005 deposition, Cosby acknowledged that he once obtained a prescription for Quaaludes, a powerful sedative, with the intention of giving them to women he wanted to have sex with, and that he once did so with a woman other than Constand.
Cosby's original assault trial ended in a mistrial when, after 50 hours of deliberations, the jury deadlocked on a verdict.