Civil Suit Will Dog Cosby |en Route to Assault Trial

     SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CN) – With the assault case against him heating up, Bill Cosby need not sit for depositions in a civil case by other women who claim that the comedian drugged and raped them, a federal judge ruled.
     Cosby’s alleged victim in Pennsylvania, Andrea Constand, is the only woman whose assault claim has not run under the statute of limitations, but dozens of others are locked in competing defamation claims with the comedian.
     Tamara Green is the lead plaintiff in a Massachusetts case. She and six other women previously spoke out about decades-old encounters with Cosby, and filed defamation claims when the comedian tried to clear his name.
     Though Cosby initially brought counterclaims for defamation – saying their false accusations cost him work he changed tacks when the Pennsylvania court advanced Constand’s criminal case against him in February.
     Nearly a week after that ruling, Cosby asked the Massachusetts court to stay the defamation proceedings.
     U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni agreed Monday that discovery efforts create “the precarious dilemma of [Cosby] having to choose whether to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination (which could place him at a severe disadvantage in this case) or waive that privilege (and thus potentially incriminate himself in the criminal case).” (Parentheses in original.)
     Mastroianni emphasized, however, that it is necessary only to exempt Cosby “from providing discovery while his criminal case is pending.”
     “A complete stay of this litigation … is not warranted,” the 13-page opinion states. “It simply is not necessary in order to avoid the Fifth Amendment predicament.”
     A stay of the entire case would put an unfair delay on the “substantial amount of discovery” that the parties must conduct to take the case to trial, according to the ruling.
     Mastroianni conceded that his “one-sided stay of discovery” could give Cosby an advantage, quoting an objection that Cosby now has the “opportunity to strategically prepare his testimony and litigation strategy, before [he] has to provide any substantive discovery responses or deposition testimony at all.”
     Though sympathetic to this predicament, Mastroianni emphasized that “there are seven plaintiffs in this case, all of whom make separate allegations and must provide separate discovery.”
     “That discovery, as well as third-party discovery, will take some time to conduct,” he added. “Accordingly, by entering a limited stay only as to discovery directed at defendant, the parties and the court will be in the best position to conclude the outstanding discovery (i.e., discovery directed to defendant) shortly after the resolution of the criminal case. Most importantly, plaintiffs do not face the same constitutional dilemma as defendant. They are not facing criminal charges and thus there are no Fifth Amendment implications at play. Therefore, the prejudice plaintiffs face in the absence of a stay is simply not comparable to defendant’s situation and does not outweigh the interest of advancing this litigation.”
     Third-party discovery in the Green case has been ongoing. Last month, a federal judge opened up a case file from the civil case Constand brought against Cosby in 2005.
     Cosby has his own discovery pending. New York magazine has vowed to fight the comedian’s subpoena for information on its July 27 cover story that profiled 35 of his assault accusers.

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