PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby’s lawyers on Thursday asked the judge in his upcoming sexual assault retrial to step aside, arguing the judge could be seen as biased because his wife is a social worker who has described herself as an “activist and advocate for assault victims.”
Cosby’s lawyers contend some of Judge Steven O’Neill’s recent pretrial rulings could give the appearance he’s being influenced by his wife’s work, particularly his decision last week to let prosecutors have up to five additional accusers testify when he allowed just one at the first trial.
O’Neill did not immediately rule on the request. He and his wife, Deborah, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Deborah O’Neill is a psychotherapist at the University of Pennsylvania and coordinates a team providing care, support and advocacy for student sexual assault victims. In 2012, she wrote her doctoral dissertation on acquaintance rape, the type of assault at issue in Cosby’s criminal case.
Last year, Cosby’s lawyers said, Deborah O’Neill gave money to a group linked to an organization that’s planning a protest outside the retrial.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty to charges he drugged and molested former Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
Cosby’s first trial ended in a hung jury last year. Jury selection in his retrial is scheduled to start April 2.
Seeking a new judge is the latest attempt the 80-year-old Cosby’s retooled defense team has made to push back the start of his retrial.
O’Neill rejected a request last week to delay the retrial at least three months so Cosby’s lawyers, led by former Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, could have more time to prepare for the five additional accuser witnesses