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​Judge rules Cosby's wife must give deposition, with limits

Comedian Bill Cosby and wife Camille O. Cosby walk backstage during the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on March 2, 2007, in Los Angeles.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images for NAACP

BOSTON -- A federal judge in Massachusetts has ruled that Bill Cosby's wife must answer questions under oath in a defamation lawsuit filed by seven women who claim Cosby sexually assaulted them decades ago.

A lawyer for the women has sought to compel Camille Cosby to give a deposition in the lawsuit. Last month, a magistrate judge rejected Cosby's bid to quash the deposition subpoena.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni upheld the magistrate's ruling but said she may refuse to answer questions that call for testimony prohibited by the Massachusetts marital disqualification rule. The rule generally prohibits spouses from testifying about private conversations with their spouse.

"(Camille Cosby) may possess a good deal of relevant, non-protected information which can be uncovered at a deposition," Mastroianni wrote in his ruling.

The women allege that Cosby defamed them when his representatives branded them as liars after they went public with allegations he sexually assaulted them decades ago. Cosby has denied their allegations and has filed a countersuit against them.

Their lawyer hoped to depose Camille Cosby this month, but it was not immediately clear when the deposition would be taken.

Bill Cosby, 78, was arrested and charged by Pennsylvania prosecutors in December with drugging and sexually violating former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. The former TV star could get up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

A judge refused to throw out the charges earlier this month after Cosby's lawyers claimed a former prosecutor had granted the comedian immunity from prosecution a decade ago.

Former District Attorney Bruce Castor found the case too weak to prosecute in 2005, but current Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele's office reopened the investigation last summer, after the comedian's damaging, decade-old testimony from Constand's civil case was unsealed and dozens of other women came forward to accuse Cosby of assaulting them.

Damaging testimony from Constand's lawsuit was unsealed last summer, prompting Castor's successors to reopen the case and ultimately charge Cosby.

Cosby admitted in the deposition that he had affairs with young models and actresses, that he obtained quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with and that he gave Constand three pills at his home. He said he reached into her pants in what he insisted was consensual contact.