Bill Cosby's attorneys have filed a motion calling on the presiding judge, Steven O'Neill, to recuse himself from the sexual assault case citing a conflict of interest linked to O'Neill's wife, Deborah O'Neill, who is a counselor at Penn's Counseling and Psychological Services.
With less than two weeks left before the retrial, Cosby's attorneys filed a memo questioning Steven O'Neill's partiality in the case. According to the Washington Informer, Cosby's lawyers did so by indicating that the judge's wife, Deborah O'Neill, is an advocate for victims of sexual assault.
Deborah O'Neill, a 2012 doctoral graduate in social work of the School of Social Policy & Practice, currently coordinates the CAPS Sexual Trauma Treatment Outreach and Prevention team.
Deborah O'Neill did not immediately respond to request for comment.
“The Pennsylvania legal system is founded upon the principle that an independent, fair, impartial, and competent judiciary, composed of persons of integrity, will interpret and apply the law that governs our society based on the fundamental precept that an independent fair, honorable and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice,” Cosby’s attorneys wrote in the motion filed under the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct.
In the motion, Cosby's attorneys cited Deborah's dissertation, "Responding to College Campus Acquaintance Rape: Contextual Issues and the Challenge of Inter-Organizational Collaboration," as evidence of her husband's alleged conflict of interest.
“I feel not only compassion for the victim but anger towards whoever has reacted to victim disclosure in a judgmental or shaming way," she wrote in the dissertation. "Responding to victim disclosure with anything less than compassion is an additional betrayal and another layer of trauma.”
She included her husband in her acknowledgements noting his support in her writing the dissertation.
"To Steve, I share this achievement with you," she wrote. "You are my best friend and the love of my life. Thank you for being gentle with my insecurities and robust with encouragement. I could not have done this without you."
His attorneys also noted past donations made by Deborah O'Neill to V-Day UPenn, The New York Times reported.
Deborah O'Neil has also spoken at Penn Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention's “Take Back the Night," an annual peaceful protest on campus in support of an international campaign to ending sexual, relationship, and domestic violence.
Steven O'Neill presided over Cosby's first trial which ended in a hung jury.
Cosby's lawyers also cited some of O'Neill's recent pre-trial decisions as evidence of bias. According to the Associated Press, the attorneys noted that O'Neill gave the first sign of bias during the first trial by refusing to allow the initial jury to hear the testimony of a woman who claimed that an accuser of Cosby had informed her that she intended to falsely accuse a famous individual of assault to gain money.
In their motion, the attorneys added that O'Neill's recent decisions are evidence of his partiality. Although the accusations against Cosby were not within the 12-year statute of limitations, he allowed the case to go forward.
This is the second time this year that Cosby's trial and reports of misconduct has affected the Penn community.
In February this year, Penn rescinded an honorary degree granted to Bill Cosby in 1990 after deciding to also rescind real estate mogul Steve Wynn's degree and remove his name from "Wynn Commons" due to similar allegations of sexual assault. President Amy Gutmann said that the Trustees delayed this decision on Cosby's degree because they "were hoping to learn something" from a trial involving Cosby that was scheduled in 2016.
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