PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Bill Cosby scandal has become a point of attack in the race for district attorney in suburban Philadelphia, with one candidate running a TV ad criticizing his opponent for not bringing charges against the comedian when the sexual assault allegations first surfaced a decade ago.
Former Montgomery County prosecutor Bruce L. Castor Jr. concluded at the time that both Cosby and the accuser could be viewed in a "less than flattering light," but he determined there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute. Dozens of women have since made similar claims against the actor.
"Bruce Castor had an opportunity to bring charges and he failed to do so," Democratic challenger Kevin Steele said in a 30-second ad that debuted Tuesday, two weeks before the election.
Castor called the ad the work of a "desperate candidate" and said Steele, a career prosecutor, could have pursued Cosby in the interim.
The race appears to be close, and the outcome could determine whether Cosby faces criminal charges in Montgomery County. The 12-year deadline to file felony sex-assault charges expires in January, the same month the winner takes office.
Outgoing District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman won't confirm reports that she has reopened the case. However, witnesses have been interviewed and Cosby's camp has sought out criminal defense lawyers to handle the probe.
And Ferman recently said of the case that "prosecutors have a responsibility to review past conclusions ... when current information might lead to a different decision." Steele is Ferman's top deputy.
Castor said last month that former Temple University employee Andrea Constand had enhanced her story when she sued Cosby, calling the alleged discrepancy "troublesome for the good guys." The woman's lawyer demanded a public apology. Castor stood his ground.
"The information about all of Cosby's alleged victims came to light after I left the D.A.'s office," Castor, a Republican, said in response to the attack ad. "Now the election rolls around and somehow it's my fault?"
Steele on Wednesday called Castor's comments about Constand "a shining example of his attitude about victims."
Constand met Cosby, a Temple trustee, through her job with the women's basketball team. He became a mentor, and allegedly drugged and molested the 30-year-old woman when she went to his home seeking career advice in January 2004. She contacted police a year later and filed a civil suit in 2005, weeks after Castor declined to file charges.
Cosby acknowledged the sexual contact in a deposition, which wasn't released until recently, but he called it consensual. Constand said she was semi-conscious.
"If the allegations in the civil complaint were contained with that detail in her statement to the police, we might have been able to make a case out of it," Castor said last month.
Cosby, 78, has denied wrongdoing and reached a confidential settlement with Constand after a judge compelled him to answer questions about his sexual encounters, prescription drug use and other topics. He acknowledged that he had obtained quaaludes in the 1970s to give to women with whom he hoped to have sex. However, he said he had given Constand only Benadryl.
Cosby enjoyed a 50-year entertainment career capped by his role as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the top-rated "Cosby Show" from 1984 to 1992. His accusers now say they were assaulted as far back as 1965.
Several are suing him for sexual abuse, defamation or both. Lawsuits are pending in Boston, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.