Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby’s lawyers lost a motion to keep out of the public eye materials gathered as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by several women who claim he sexually assaulted them decades ago.

Now that he’s facing criminal charges, Bill Cosby is not expected to be deposed next month in a lawsuit accusing him of defaming seven women who say he sexually assaulted them, lawyers in the case said Jan. 13.

But his wife Camille Cosby might end up taking his place.

Lawyers in the Massachusetts lawsuit discussed holding off on Bill Cosby’s deposition following the comedian’s Dec. 30 arrest in Pennsylvania for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a woman inside his home near Philadelphia in 2004. The criminal charges are the first to be brought against Cosby.

Joseph Cammarata, an attorney for the seven women, said he hopes to depose Cosby’s wife on Feb. 22, the day Bill Cosby had been scheduled to be deposed in the separate civil suit playing out near Cosby’s home in western Massachusetts.

But that date, Cammarata said, is contingent on a number of factors, including an appeal Cosby’s lawyers are expected to file challenging U.S. Magistrate Judge David Hennessy’s decision to reject their bid to dismiss the subpoena.

The judge on Jan. 13 rejected a proposal by Cosby’s lawyers that would have kept a significant amount of material in the case out of the public eye. Instead, Hennessy proposed more limited protections focused on certain sensitive information that might be disclosed in depositions, such as Social Security numbers, bank accounts and addresses.

The proposed order, to be put in writing later this month, would not affect other materials and documents gathered in the pretrial discovery phase.

“It was a compromise, and I think it was fair,” Cammarata said after the hearing. “This is an appropriate order protecting what may be legitimate concerns for confidentiality on a question-by-question basis. It’s not a unilateral blanket protection. It’s very limited in scope.”

Cosby’s lawyers, who declined to comment after the hearing, initially sought to have all depositions and documents produced during the pretrial discovery phase kept confidential for up to 14 days. Either side would then be allowed to request the judge to seal the records for longer.

In court filings, they argued for the broader confidentiality, saying the plaintiffs were seeking “irrelevant and extraordinarily invasive and intimate details” of Cosby’s life and “have made clear they intend to publicize every aspect of discovery in the case.”

Among the information they sought was the identities of all Cosby’s sexual partners since 1968 who were not his wife, the dates of the sexual encounters and all Cosby’s medical records over the past 35 years, including those specifically dealing with “erectile and/or other sexual dysfunction, sexual paraphilia and/or sexual fetish,” according to Cosby’s lawyers.

Cammarata argued Cosby’s proposal would damage transparency in a case of great public interest. He also said there are valid reasons why he sought Cosby’s medical and sexual histories, including Cosby’s past statements that he obtained quaaludes for various joint and body pains.

The seven women are among about 50 across the country who have come forward with allegations that Cosby plied them with drugs and alcohol before sexually assaulting them. He denies the accusations.

In other developments, Cosby’s lawyer, Marshall Searcy, said Jan. 13 he might ask for a postponement of the defamation case in light of the Pennsylvania criminal charges.

“It’s a new situation. It’s a fluid situation,” he said. “We’re trying to decide on the best approach.”

In response, Cammarata asked the judge to set a deadline for when Cosby’s lawyers should move for a postponement, a request the judge took under advisement. The case returns to Worcester court March 23.