Bill Cosby, approaching a retrial on charges alleging he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his Cheltenham home in 2004 is seeking to have the presiding judge replaced at a hearing tomorrow because the judge’s wife has been an active supporter of sexual assault victims.
According to an exclusive by Radar Online, new allegations have come to light that are serious enough to reasonably assume that it could have a grave impact on Judge O’Neill’s ability to be a fair and impartial jurist presiding over the trial.
In the stunning story, it’s claimed Judge O’Neill had an affair with a young lawyer, former prosecutor and now district judge named Maureen Coggins in 1998 and 1999.
This could play a major role in deciding whether or not Judge O’Neill could preside over the case, as Coggins worked under the former district attorney, Bruce Castor, who was called in as a witness but quickly found not to be credible by Judge O’Neill.
According to our source, Coggins, now serving as a Magisterial District Judge in Montgomery County, was allegedly under the false assumption that typically occurs in an affair, he’d leave his wife.
Judge Steven O’Neill failed to disclose this bias on the record or to the defense – a bias that could play a critical role in any future proceedings.
It was 1998 – an underdog from the outset, Norristown defense attorney Steven T. O’Neill announced he was putting his bid in for the office of Montgomery County district attorney. His opponent? Bruce Castor, the former prosecutor who declined to prosecute Cosby for the sexual assault allegations after publicly stating he found “insufficient, credible and admissible evidence exists upon which any charge against Mr. Cosby could be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt.”
As the two were campaigning in ’98 and early ’99, the married O’Neill was allegedly carrying on a love affair with Maureen Coggins, one of the assistant district attorneys under Castor’s watch – and according to our sources, O’Neill’s wife left him as a result.
“There came a time during the campaign when O’Neill fell gravely ill with some kind of life-threatening infection, I think in his ear,” said a source who was involved in the campaign. “While it was touch and go, he and his wife reconciled, though O’Neill had promised to divorce his wife and marry this younger woman. This really, really pissed off the girl in the [district attorneys] office who was in love with O’Neill. I still did not know any of this. The girl started showing up at political events where Castor and O’Neill were campaigning.”
O’Neill and Castor were preparing for a debate in Willow Grove in Upper Moreland Township, Pennsylvania. With Coggins there, front-and-center wearing a “Castor 4 DA” pin, the debate took a toll on O’Neill, a source that was there tells us.
“I thought the girl, Maureen Coggins was her name, was coming to support Castor, her boss,” our source continued. “Naturally, as trial lawyers, both O’Neill and Castor were accomplished at speaking in public. But that night, while Castor was energized and fully conversant … O’Neill was absolutely terrible. Nervous, sweating, stammering, no focus. Just really bad.”
The Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman, Frank Bartle, allegedly received a phone call from the current chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party, Bill Donnelly, complaining about Castor “playing dirty by putting Maureen in front of O’Neill to throw him off his game.”
That moment was when O’Neill’s alleged affair came to light.
“While that campaign raged on in ’98 and early ’99, unbeknownst to me at first, the married O’Neill was carrying on a love affair with one of the ADA’s under Castor’s command much younger than him, and his wife had left him on account that.”
According to our source, the candidates and a number of political figures and campaign staff gathered together in a parking lot as they were leaving.
Among the crowd stood Frank Bartle, the then Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party and State Representative Bob Godshall who has been in office for more than three decades and is set to retire this November.
Godshall, who according to our source knew nothing about the affair, walked up to O’Neill, in front of a dozen or more people and shook his hand.
“Godshall then turned to O’Neill’s wife and asked: ‘Is this your wife?’ Well, O’Neill goes ballistic yelling and screaming that Godshall knows very well who his wife is and was the one behind the vicious slander against his family,” a well-placed source continued. “The wife goes off too, and there is this shouting tirade by the two of them while onlookers gathered. Godshall was totally taken aback, as he was truly ignorant of this whole thing.”
According to our source, O’Neill became the laughing stock of the political and legal community, as nobody believed Godshall was behind the gossip about the affair and O’Neill’s wife leaving him.
“The person responsible was the girl herself, who was single and was in love with a man who said he would divorce his wife to marry her. It really took a toll on O’Neill emotionally, but also on his business as a lawyer. People don’t want the laughing stock of the county bar as their lawyer. So he began to suffer financially too.”
At this point, the damage to O’Neill was done. He lost the election shortly thereafter — but made up for it in 2002 when he was appointed to the bench in April 2002 by then Governor Mark S. Schweiker as a judge for the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. He was elected to a 10 year term in 2004 and retained for another 10 year term in 2014.
District Attorney Kevin R. Steele argued in court papers filed last week that the opinion of his onetime political rival and former district attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. is not relevant and should not be presented to a jury by the defense team when Cosby’s retrial begins next week, stating that it “is barred as a matter of law.”
Staggeringly, the man who will decide whether or not Castor will be left out of the trial is Judge O’Neill.
“Any reference during trial to the 2015 campaign for District Attorney of Montgomery County or the purported political motivations for the instant prosecution would be completely irrelevant and offered by defendant strictly for the purpose of issue confusion, misleading the jury, and/or delay.” Steele wrote in the motion.
Also, Steele states that any reference to political motivation behind the prosecution would be irrelevant, citing Commonwealth v. Thompson, a case that sought to question a police officer about monetary compensation he received for testifying in the form of wages or overtime.
“Defendant has repeatedly alleged that the undersigned [Steele] promised prosecution and that the motivation for charges in this case was precipitated by the campaign,” Steele stated. “Beyond being untrue, these statements and any testimony to that effect would be irrelevant, inadmissible, and simply an attempt by the defense to distract from the powerful evidence in this case.”
“This is my first time hearing of these alleged accounts regarding Judge O’Neill, the story is very interesting and if true, very disturbing!” Bill Cosby’s spokesperson Andrew Wyatt told YC in a comment. “Furthermore, Mr. Cosby maintains that he’s innocent of these charges.”
Castor and Coggins did not respond for comment requests when contacted by Radar and YC.
Why is this important?
The new Montgomery County District Attorney, Kevin Steele wants Judge O’Neill to exclude Castor as a witness and from telling the jury why he declined to prosecute the actor in 2005 – a decision that sources said will likely be granted.
Steele vowed in his campaign to prosecute Cosby and shamed Castor for his ‘poor handling’ of the investigation – spending nearly $200,000 on campaign television ads criticizing Castor regarding Cosby.
Further, YC found that Steele had met and worked with Constand’s lawyers to help build the criminal case against Cosby in 2015. It is unknown if Steele persuaded Constand’s attorney to file the federal suit just a few months after his meeting with Constand’s lawyer and ten days before the election.
“O’Neill and his wife have a tremendous motive to get back at Castor for their humiliation. Can you imagine the wife chirping in Steve’s ear at home? O’Neill assigns the Cosby case to himself getting into position to hurt Castor’s career and reputation like he thinks Castor hurt his, get retribution for his wife who blames Castor for her public humiliation, and to protect Steele who presented him this opportunity by making Cosby the Hail Mary pass that won the game.”
Castor was ordered to testify at a hearing in Feb. 2016 regarding an agreement made between his office and Cosby’s legal team in 2005 promising not to prosecute Cosby.
On the stand, Castor defended his decision not to bring charges, citing among other things Constand’s yearlong delay in going to police, her continued contact with Cosby, and suggestions that she and her mother might have tried to extort the comic.
Judge Steven O’Neill appeared to doubt Castor’s credibility regarding the existence of the oral agreement from 2005.
“There’s no other witness to the promise,” O’Neill said. “The rabbit is in the hat and you want me at this point to assume, ‘Hey, the promise was made, judge. Accept that.”
However, Judge O’Neill failed to disclose this bias with Castor to the defense team or put it on the record when deciding Castor’s credibility; something that could play a critical role in any future proceedings or appeals.
Given the recent discovery of an affair and turmoil between O’Neill and Castor, it would be reasonable to believe that this could have an impact on O’Neill’s ability to be a fair and impartial jurist on the case against Cosby.
Similar to the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, this new argument could easily be a conflict for the Court, which could trigger a mistrial – or force another judge at a higher court to determine whether this case could or could not remain before O’Neill. The judge presiding over the O.J. Simpson Case, Lance Ito, gave the following statement in open court during a proceeding after his wife became a topic of discussion:
“It could be argued that the Court would not want the Court’s wife to be embarrassed .. I love my wife dearly and I am wounded by the criticism of her as any spouse would be. I think it would only be reasonable to assume that .. that could have some impact.”
The motions are set to be heard tomorrow and Friday before Judge O’Neill with jury selection scheduled for Monday.