Bill Cosby's Lawyers Demand Recusal Because Judge's Wife Supports Rape Victims

Illustration for article titled Bill Cosby's Lawyers Demand Recusal Because Judge's Wife Supports Rape Victims
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You know what really makes a guy seem like he’s guilty of sexually assaulting women? When he’s worried that someone won’t like him because they support survivors of rape. That is the new, bold tactic Bill Cosby’s lawyers have adopted, and it’s not a very good one.


The New York Times reports that Cosby’s lawyers have requested a recusal of Judge Steven T. O’Neill because his wife, Deborah V. O’Neill, is a social worker who heads the University of Pennsylvania’s Sexual Trauma Treatment Outreach and Prevention program. According to the motion, she has donated to V-Day UPenn, a campus group that bills itself as “part of the global movement that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues.” Per the documents, the group she supports has given funds to another group that will hold a rally in support of Cosby’s accusers at the courthouse. Cosby’s attorneys argued that his wife’s job and support for V-Day UPenn illustrate the “appearance of partiality” on the judge’s part, and therefore Judge O’Neill should be replaced.

From the memo, per the Times:

“Thus, Dr. O’Neill — the spouse of the trial judge presiding over this case — has apparently donated marital assets to the very organization that will be protesting against Mr. Cosby at his upcoming retrial, whose stated purpose is to show support for Andrea Constand and the other 404(b) accusers,” the memo says.

The last-ditch effort to replace O’Neill is not promising. Recusals are warranted by a serious conflict of interest, and judges generally use their own discretion to make the decision. “We do not attribute the ideological views of a spouse to a judge,” NYU Law School professor Stephen Gillers told the Times. “We trust judges to make decisions based on the law, and not because their husbands or wives would like to see a particular result. We trust judges to be independent of the influence of good friends, of parents, of spouses, and decide on the law.”

Cosby, on trial again after the jury failed to reach a deliberation last June, faces three felony charges for allegedly drugging and raping former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. His lawyers are using every tactic they can come up with: They attempted to block 19 other accusers from testifying in the retrial, a request that O’Neill partially denied by allowing five alleged victims to testify. The lawyers countered by asking for a 90-day delay to prepare for the new accusers. O’Neill denied that request, too. So, unless his lawyers come up with something very creative in the next seven days, America is about to see Bill Cosby in court again.

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.



Next time: “All judges should recuse themselves from my murder trial because they support not murdering people!”