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Cosby's wife forced to testify in defamation case over sexual-assault allegations

In just days, Bill Cosby’s wife will be questioned under oath in a lawsuit brought by seven women who claim that many years ago her husband sexually abused them.

Camille Cosby will be deposed Wednesday to answer questions about her husband’s treatment of women following a failed attempt to quash the subpoena or, alternatively, to secure a protective order to limit the scope. A Massachusetts court ruled late last week that her attorney’s claim that the couple’s private conversations were privileged had “no merit” and instructed her to testify in the coming days.

“She has important information as his business manager and, of course, as his wife of 52 years,” Joseph Cammarata, the attorney for the women, said about Camille Cosby. “We hope to learn information that is relevant to the claims which are an issue in this case, including Mr. Cosby’s relationship with other women.”

The Cosbys’ attorney, Monique Pressley, said Camille Cosby’s lawyers are appealing the court’s decision.

Over the past year, dozens of women have come forward with claims that the comedian had drugged them and assaulted them – igniting outrage and a call for action. Thirty-five women made New York magazine’s cover last year, setting off a social media campaign #TheEmptyChair, which was used by others who wanted to share their own stories.

But it’s a civil lawsuit filed by seven that will force Camille Cosby to speak.

The women began filing suit against Bill Cosby in late 2014, alleging that the “defendant drugged and/or sexually assaulted” each one of them between 1969 and 1992, according to an order from a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. The women claim that when they went public with their sexual-assault accusations, Cosby defamed them by calling them liars.

Cosby sued them back, saying the “malicious, opportunistic, false and defamatory accusations” were a mere play for money that has ruined his reputation. He said at the time the women’s accusations “have caused and continue to cause him to suffer substantial injuries and damages to reputation, business contracts, shame, mortification, damages to property, business, trade, profession and occupation.”

Bill and Camille Cosby were set to be deposed in the case this year. Camille Cosby was given a subpoena Dec. 9 for this week’s deposition.

The Cosbys’ lawyers then filed a motion claiming that Camille Cosby did not have any relevant information about the women’s accusations and that forcing her to testify was “nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to pressure defendant in the face of subjecting his wife to the shame and embarrassment of responding to questions about his alleged infidelities and sexual misconduct.”

Watch a controversial 2014 Bill Cosby interview with The Associated Press:

The couple have been married for more than 50 years and are business partners. Attorneys also argued that Camille Cosby’s testimony would cause her “undue burden.”

A federal judge in Massachusetts struck down her motion last week because, he said, she failed to prove that she and her husband were protected by the state’s spousal disqualification law.

The arguments “do not outweigh the potential significance of Mrs. Cosby’s testimony, nor has Mrs. Cosby provided any authority that they do,” U.S. Judge Magistrate David Hennessey wrote in his 12-page ruling.

Bill Cosby was arrested and charged last week in a separate case involving Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee who claimed that Cosby drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home more than a decade ago. The charges were filed against Cosby just days before the statute of limitations was set to expire.

Cosby, 78, was released on $1 million bail.

U.S. comedian Bill Cosby leaves a courthouse in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 30, 2015 after arraignment on charges of aggravated indecent assault.

Kena Betancur/AFP

Amid the all of the accusations last year, Camille Cosby came to her husband’s defense, criticizing the news media for reporting the accusers’ claims without “vetting” them – a comparison she made to coverage of Rolling Stone’s problematic story about campus rape.

The magazine’s University of Virginia “story was heart-breaking, but ultimately appears to be proved to be untrue. Many in the media were quick to link that story to stories about my husband – until that story unwound,” she said in the statement at the time. “None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim. But the question should be asked – who is the victim?”

Throughout their marriage, Camille Cosby said, her husband remained the same man she “fell in love with” and “a different man has been portrayed in the media.”

“The man I met and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work,” she said last year. “He is a kind man, a generous man, a funny man, and a wonderful husband, father and friend. He is the man you thought you knew.”

She said the man portrayed in the media “is the portrait of a man I do not know. It is also a portrait painted by individuals and organizations whom many in the media have given a pass.”

Bill Cosby is set to be deposed in the case Feb. 22.

© 2016, The Washington Post

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