Veteran prosecutor to step in for convicted attorney general

Attorney has been a central figure in sexual assault case against Bill Cosby

By Marc Levy
Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The man who took over the duties of Pennsylvania's convicted attorney general on Wednesday is a veteran prosecutor who has handled high-profile cases in suburban Philadelphia, pursued political ambitions and emerged as a central figure in the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby.

Bruce L. Castor Jr. took the oath Wednesday to become acting attorney general, five months after an embattled Kathleen Kane hired him into the position of "solicitor general" that she specially created for him, including a waiver that allowed him to keep his private law practice. Kane, a Democrat, announced she would resign Wednesday, two days after a jury convicted her of abusing the powers of the state's top law enforcement office by leaking secret grand jury information to smear a rival and lying under oath to cover it up.

Castor, 54, is a former Republican district attorney from Montgomery County. He entered Kane's office amid her battles with top aides, spawned, in part, by the unprecedented situation of her law license being suspended by the state Supreme Court. Castor became first deputy attorney general last month.

Castor already has assumed responsibility for big decisions at the attorney general's office, including declining to appeal a judge's dismissal of some criminal charges against three former Penn State administrators over their handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Before she announced her resignation Tuesday, Castor advised Kane that it would be "very difficult" for her to continue in her position as attorney general, given her conviction, he told reporters.

Castor, however, received no pledges of support Tuesday from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf or the state's top lawmakers. Wolf has the authority to appoint a replacement to Kane, with two-thirds of the Senate's approval, for the five months until a successor who is 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.

For his part, Castor spoke with reporters for more than an hour Tuesday at the agency's Harrisburg headquarters, defending the capabilities of the attorney general's office, despite two years of turmoil under Kane, and calling himself the right man for the job he had once sought.

"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.

He called himself someone who speaks candidly, tries to do what's right and has made decisions independent of his boss, Kane.

"It's very difficult for me to be told what to do," Castor said.

Castor served for more than a decade as a staff prosecutor in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania's third most populous county, before he ran successfully for district attorney. He served two terms in that office and another two terms as county commissioner. He ran for district attorney again last fall, but lost to Kevin Steele, the man who ultimately led the prosecution's case against Kane.

In 2004, Castor ran for attorney general, losing in an expensive and hotly contested Republican primary to Tom Corbett. In 2013, he explored a run for governor, warning that Republicans were otherwise doomed to back an unpopular incumbent - Corbett - who could not win re-election. He was right: Corbett lost badly in 2014 to Wolf. But Castor abandoned any plan for a campaign, saying he could not drum up enough support to challenge a sitting governor.

Castor also has been a central figure in the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby.

He has said that he had promised not to charge Cosby a decade ago when, as Montgomery County district attorney, he investigated a former Temple University employee's claim that the entertainer had molested her at his home. But in February, a judge in the Cosby case rejected his claim.

Published: Thu, Aug 18, 2016