After Bill Cosby’s lawyers called for Pennsylvania Judge Steven T. O’Neill to recuse himself from Cosby’s retrial over conflicts of interest, O’Neill announced he would not be stepping down.
Cosby’s lawyers filed a motion calling for O’Neill to recuse himself because his wife, Deborah O’Neill, is a counselor for victims of sexual assault at Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services and has advocated for victims in the past. In response, O'Neill claimed that his views on sexual assault are separate from his wife’s views. The Pennsylvania judge also turned down the attorneys’ demand that the trial be postponed.
“It’s difficult to have her accomplishments trivialized by a partisan motion,” O’Neill said in his statement. “My wife’s personal beliefs and her professional activities are of no consequence. They do not influence me one iota.”
Deborah O'Neill, a 2012 School of Social Policy & Practice doctoral graduate, also coordinates the CAPS Sexual Trauma Treatment Outreach and Prevention team.
In Deborah O’Neill’s dissertation, entitled “Responding to College Campus Acquaintance Rape: Contextual Issues and the Challenge of Inter-Organizational Collaboration," she wrote, “I feel not only compassion for the victim but anger towards whoever has reacted to victim disclosure in a judgmental or shaming way."
The defense argued that his wife donated to V-Day UPenn, which sponsored another organization that plans to protest outside of the courthouse during Cosby’s retrial. However, Steven O’Neill dismissed these claims because of evidence that showed that the University donated to V-Day UPenn, and not his wife. He said the donation “didn't involve her money or their joint assets.”
Despite being accused of sexual abuse by over 50 women, Cosby is only charged in connection with his encounter with former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who alleges that Cosby drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home outside of Philadelphia. Cosby says the event was consensual and continues to deny all other accounts of sexual abuse.
Cosby's attorneys also argue that O'Neill is prejudiced because he allowed five additional women to give testimonies that show a distinct pattern of sexual assault, similar to Constand's alleged encounter with Cosby.
But O’Neill said that despite the defense attorneys' previous knowledge of his wife’s alleged conflicts of interest, they purposefully waited to file the motion right before Cosby's retrial, which is set to begin on April 9th.
Controversy over Cosby’s trial has also been raised on Penn’s campus. On Feb. 1, the University revoked Cosby's honorary degree.
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