Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, the man who vowed to retry Bill Cosby, is a veteran and award-winning prosecutor who was accused of turning the Cosby case into a “political football.”
The sexual assault trial of comedian and television star Cosby has been declared a mistrial. The jury hung after more than five days of deliberations when the judge asked each juror if they believe there’s a hopeless deadlock that cannot be resolved by further deliberation and each one said yes.
Steele, who prosecuted the case, announced during a press conference that he will retry Cosby.
“We will push forward to try and get justice done,” Steele said. “We hope that moving forward in this case sends a strong message that victims of these types of crimes can come forward and can be heard on what has happened to them.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Steele’s Office Reopened the Cosby Case After It Was Closed
Cosby, 78, was accused in December 2015 of drugging and sexually assaulting a former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand at his home in 2004.
Then-District Attorney Bruce Castor found it too weak to prosecute in 2005, citing Constand’s yearlong delay in reporting the allegations, her continued contact with Cosby, and suggestions that she and her mother might have allegedly tried to extort Cosby. However, Steele’s office reopened the investigation in summer of 2015, unsealed the original testimony, and then charged Cosby. As many as 40 women have come forward since then to accuse Cosby of assaulting them but only Constand’s accusations have gone to trial.
Cosby’s lawyers made a bid to get the case thrown out in February of 2016. During the hearing, Steele argued that Castor had no legal authority to make a deal a decade ago that shields Cosby from facing charges. He said that the no-prosecution agreement – which was never put in writing and was only alluded to in a press release – went against the law and was a misuse of authority.
A secret agreement that permits a wealthy defendant to buy his way out of a criminal case isn’t right. That isn’t a commonwealth and prosecution stand.
Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill ruled to not throw out the case and also denied a request to disqualify Steele from the case after Cosby’s lawyers argued that he made a “political football” out of Cosby.
2. The Award-Winning District Attorney Has Worked in Law Since 1992
Steele was elected District Attorney of Montgomery County in November 2015 and began his tenure on January 4, 2016. His page on the official Montgomery County website says that he “seeks justice for victims of crime and prosecutes those who commit crimes” and investigates and prosecutes about 9,000 criminal cases annually with his office of prosecutors and detectives.
Steele was a Deputy District Attorney for Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office in 1992 and worked there for three years. He started working for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office on March 1995 and was named the First Assistant District Attorney in 2008 where he supervised legal staff and oversaw all operations in the District Attorney’s Office. According to his LinkedIn page, he was also Captain of the Narcotics Unit from January 1998 to December 2001 and Chief of the Trials Division from Jan. 2002 to Dec. 2007. He also worked for the Department of Justice in Wilmington, Delaware, the Office of the United States Attorneys in Washington, D.C., and United States Secret Service in Washington D.C. He has also been sworn as a Special Deputy Attorney General and a Special Assistant District Attorney in Adams County, Pennsylvania.
He received the “2012-2013 Award for Outstanding Trial Advocacy in Capital Cases” for his role in obtaining the death penalty in an Adams County case where a police officer was killed in the line of duty.
He also taught in the sociology and criminology department at Cabrini College for more than 10 years, where he earned the “Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.” He also earned the “Distinguished Faculty Award” while working at Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Institute. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Institute in 2016.
He also serves as the 79th President of the Penn State Alumni Association, is a non-voting constituent representative on the Penn State Board of Trustees, a board member of the Montgomery County Child Advocacy Center, vice president of the Penn Wynne-Overbrook Hills Fire Company Board of Directors, and a member of the Education & Training Committee of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Institute. He also previously served as board president for the Penn Wynne Civic Association, president of the Graduate School Alumni Society for Penn State and on the Board of Directors for Big Brother Big Sisters of Montgomery County.
He studied at The George Washington University from 1985 to 1989, obtaining a BA in Criminal Justice and participating in the Varsity Crew Team. He then studied at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law from 1989 to 1992 for a JD in Law and then studied at Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law from 1994 to 1995 earning a Master of Laws Degree in Trial Advocacy.
3. Steele Called Cosby a Predator During the Trial
According to court documents, Cosby “hung his head or held his face in his hand” during Steele’s closing arguments on the final day of the trial, dubbing the comedian a calculating sexual predator who took advantage of Constand after drugging her and then recast the attack as consensual and romantic.
To allege that this is just some relations that is going to another level just doesn’t make sense. If you have sexual relations with somebody when they’re out, when they’re asleep, when they’re unconscious, that’s a crime. That’s a crime … By doing what he did on that night, he took away that ability, he took that from Andrea Constand. He gave her no choice in this matter.
He assaulted her. Drugging somebody and putting them in position is not romantic, it’s criminal.
Steele also told jurors about a telephone call in which Cosby apologized to Constand’s mother and described himself as a sick man. He also said that Cosby admitted to giving pills to Constand and then having sexual contact with her.
4. Steele Was Accused by Cosby’s Attorney of Turning Cosby Into a “Political Football”
The day after Cosby was charged with sexual assault, his attorney Monique Pressley took to ABC’s Good Morning America to defend her client and accuse Steele of pursuing a political agenda.
Before we even mount a defense, we will have to look at this game of political football that this Montgomery County D.A.’s office has played with my client’s life. If you look at the political campaigns that led to the former DA and the about-to-be DA going head-to-head and choosing to make this issue a focal point, what we have now is not the effectuation of justice. What we have is the fulfillment of a campaign promise from a prosecutor who used this case and used the current climate about the allegations against my client in order to get into office and had to make good before the statute of limitations completely ran out on what he promised in order to get in that office.
On NBC’s Today show, she repeated that the charges filed against Cosby were the result of a “political football” and also insisted that Cosby “is not guilty… and there will be no consideration on our part of any sort of arrangement.”
She also referred to Steele as a “hungry D.A., trying to keep his campaign promise” on CBS This Morning.
5. Cosby’s Wife Said Steele Was “Exploitively Ambitious”
In a statement made after the mistrial was declared, Bill Cosby’s Wife Camille Cosby called Steele “heinously and exploitively ambitious.”
She also described the judge as “overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the District Attorney,” the counsels for the accusers “totally unethical,” and the general media “blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truths for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of a human life.”
She also said that she was grateful to any of the jurors who fought to review the evidence. She also thanked counselors Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa as well as Cosby’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt for all their help.
Camille and Pressley aren’t the only detractors of Steele, as the video above shows.