PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The judge presiding over Bill Cosby's criminal case will limit a Feb. 2 hearing to the fight over whether Cosby had a "nonprosecution" agreement with a district attorney.
Cosby's lawyers want the criminal sex-assault case dismissed on several grounds. They argue that Cosby was promised he would never be prosecuted; cannot properly defend a 12-year-old case; and was charged by a district attorney seeking to fulfill what they call a campaign promise.
District Attorney Kevin Steele rebutted those arguments this week and asked the judge to tackle a preliminary hearing on the evidence the same day.
However, Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill said Friday that he will only hear arguments on the nonprosecution claim. He said he would weigh the other defense motions later, presumably after the preliminary hearing determines if prosecutors have enough evidence to move the case forward.
O'Neill has handled his share of high-profiles cases in the region. They include the 2007 drug-and-gun arrests of then-Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid's eldest two sons — during which O'Neill called the Reid home "a drug emporium" — and the 2014 death penalty verdict of a software engineer who killed an infant and her grandmother in a botched ransom attempt.
Former District Attorney Bruce Castor is the key proponent of the "nonprosecution" claim. He announced last fall that he had promised Cosby's now-deceased lawyer, Walter M. Phillips Jr., that Cosby should testify in the accuser's civil lawsuit because Castor would never use the testimony against him.
But Steele, who reopened the case when portions of Cosby's civil deposition were released last year, said there's no evidence of a valid immunity deal.
Castor disclosed the pact with Phillips as he and Steele waged a tight race for district attorney, with the Cosby case front and center in their rival campaign ads.
On Thursday, a Pittsburgh judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a woman who said Cosby defamed her when he and his representatives responded to allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted her and other women.