PHILADELPHIA (CN) - Bill Cosby cannot shield the case file of a decade-old sexual-assault claim at the heart of the comedian's upcoming criminal trial, a federal judge ruled.
The woman who sued Cosby back in 2005, Andrea Constand, is the same Temple University employee whose allegations prompted an aggravated indecent assault charge against the comedian, set to go to trial in Pennsylvania.
Though a settlement put Constand's sealed civil case to rest for nearly decade, that changed when dozens of women came forward with sexual-abuse allegations against Cosby in late 2014 after comedian Hannibal Burress went viral with a stand-up bit about Cosby's image.
Constand is the only woman whose chance to bring assault claims against Cosby has not run under the statute of limitations, but dozens of others are locked in competing defamation claims with the comedian.
While the women complain about Cosby having "branded" them as liars, Cosby says their false accusations cost him work.
Led by Tamara Green, seven of the women behind a federal defamation case against Cosby in Massachusetts filed a subpoena late last year for the civil case file Constand's attorney, Dolores Troiani, prepared in 2005.
The maneuver prompted motions to quash in Philadelphia by both Cosby and American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer, which reached its own settlement with Constand for having purportedly portrayed the woman one decade ago as an extortionist.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody kept some privileged materials off the table Monday but otherwise granted Cosby's accusers access to the Constand case file, rejecting the comedian's assertion that his confidentiality agreement with Constand had any bearing on third parties.
"Defendants should not be able to buy the silence of witnesses with a settlement agreement when the facts of one controversy are relevant to another," Brody's 15-page opinion states, quoting precedent from unrelated litigation.
Joseph Cammarata, an attorney for Green and the other women, called the ruling "significant."
"It allows us access to a trove of relevant materials and documents that likely will assist us in our case," said Cammarata, of the firm Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel in Washington, D.C.
With the exception of attorney-client privileged communications, and attorney work product, Green and the other women should be able to access any information pertaining to them or to other witnesses in Troiani's case file, the judge found.
Brody did agree, however, to block access to the settlement itself and to materials that do not pertain to the Green plaintiffs or the other witnesses.
Though the Green plaintiffs are not suing for sexual assault, Brody said Constand's case file still has bearing on their lawsuit, since the "plaintiffs must prove that Cosby sexually assaulted them in order to succeed on their defamation claims."
As to whether Troiani's production of her case file will influence Cosby's right to a fair jury trial in Pennsylvania, Brody noted that the Montgomery County District Attorney's office already has a copy.
"Furthermore, Cosby's concern about public disclosure is purely speculative and does not support a motion to quash," the ruling states. "Thus, Cosby has not demonstrated any undue burden."
The ruling does permit American Media to redact the amount of the settlement it paid Constand.
Green's co-plaintiffs in the Massachusetts action are Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Louisa Moritz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis and Angela Leslie.
Cosby meanwhile faces another discovery tangle in the Green case, despite having sought to put the case on ice pending resolution of his Pennsylvania criminal trial.
Earlier this month, Cosby subpoenaed New York magazine for information on its July 27 article that profiled 35 women who have accused the comedian of sexual assault,
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