A suburban Philadelphia judge overseeing comedian Bill Cosby’s upcoming retrial on sexual assault charges rejected a defense request to quit the case because his wife advocates for victims of sexual abuse.
Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill said a $100 donation in his wife’s name was made to an anti-abuse group more than a year ago for her job, and the contribution involved neither her own money nor the couple’s shared assets.
“She is an independent woman, and she has a right to be involved in anything she believes in,” O’Neill said in rejecting the recusal motion on Thursday, according to The Washington Post. “It’s difficult to have her accomplishments trivialized.”
In a last-ditch attempt to delay the retrial, scheduled to begin jury selection on Monday, Cosby’s attorneys pointed to the donation to an organization that helped fund an activist group that plans to protest outside the retrial, The Associated Press reported. The judge’s wife, according to her LinkedIn profile, is a social worker at a sexual trauma center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Cosby, 80, is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former women’s basketball coach at Temple University, in 2004. A jury in June deadlocked on the charges and a mistrial was declared. More than 50 women have accused the entertainer of sexual assault, with many saying he drugged and raped them.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty.
O’Neill reportedly was visibly upset by the latest defense attempt to delay the retrial. The AP reported the veteran judge told Cosby’s attorneys they had presented an “antiquated view of marriage in which spouses must agree on everything.”
Cosby was reportedly smiling and laughing under his breath in the courtroom while his attorneys and O’Neill discussed the recusal request.
Testimony in the retrial is scheduled to begin April 9.
O’Neill earlier this month said he will allow five other women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault to testify.