HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The former county prosecutor taking over for Pennsylvania’s convicted attorney general is a central figure in the Bill Cosby case, having chosen a decade ago not to charge the entertainer with sex assault and then saying the decision was binding when called to the witness stand this year by Cosby’s lawyers.
Bruce Castor Jr., 54, will take the oath Wednesday as the state’s top law enforcement official. He is succeeding — for no more than a few months — Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who is resigning following her conviction on charges she abused the powers of her office by leaking secret grand jury information to smear a rival and then lied under oath to cover it up.
Castor served two terms as the district attorney in Montgomery County, in suburban Philadelphia, before becoming a county commissioner. This past fall he made an unsuccessful bid to return as the county’s top prosecutor in a race in which he was criticized by his opponent for not pursuing charges against Cosby in 2005.
The district attorney-elect ended up filing a felony sex assault charge against Cosby, the married comic once known as “America’s Dad” for his portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on his top-ranked 1980s TV show. Cosby has denied any wrongdoing.
Castor emerged as a key witness at a hearing in February at which Cosby’s lawyers tried to have the comedian’s case thrown out.
Castor testified that he had promised Cosby that he would never be charged over a former Temple University employee’s allegation that he molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. But a judge rejected his claim after prosecutors cited inconsistences in Castor’s accounts and challenged his credibility.
“I thought making Mr. Cosby pay money was the best I was going to be able to set the stage for,” Castor testified, noting that the woman who brought the complaint could instead pursue a civil lawsuit, which she did.
Not long after that testimony, Kane tapped Castor as her second-in-command, her powers diminished when she was stripped of her law license by the state’s highest court. He was named first deputy attorney general last month.
Castor, a Republican, has not received any pledges of support from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf or the state’s top lawmakers. The governor has the authority to appoint Kane’s replacement, with two-thirds approval of the Republican-controlled Senate, for the five months until a successor picked in the November election is sworn in Jan. 17.
The matter was under discussion with senators, although Wolf’s office said no decision had been made about whether to nominate a placeholder.
However long he remains state attorney general, though, Castor would not have a role in the Cosby case, which is being handled by county prosecutors.
At a news conference Tuesday, Castor said he believed he was the right person to take over from Kane, following two years of turmoil in the office.
“I doubt that there’s anybody in all of Pennsylvania that has more experience and brings more knowledge to the game than me, which is I think why I was sought out in the first place,” Castor said.
Castor ran for attorney general in 2004, losing in an expensive and hotly contested Republican primary to Tom Corbett, who later went on to become governor.