BOSTON (Reuters) - Bill Cosby's wife of a half-century faced questioning on Monday by lawyers for seven women who accused the comedian of sex assault and sued him for defamation after a federal judge rejected her bid to avoid a deposition.
Camille Cosby, who manages her husband's business, was deposed at a hotel in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her lawyers earlier unsucessfully sought to convince a U.S. District Court judge to stop her testimony.
Plaintiffs' lawyer Joseph Cammarata said he intended to "vindicate our clients' interests."
"I expect to ask her about her relationship with Mr. Cosby, her relationship to his personal interests, his business interests and matters that are relevant," Cammarata said.
The deposition was taken behind closed doors. Local media reported that Cosby was not spotted but cited lawyers on the scene as confirming the deposition began.
Camille Cosby has stood by her husband of 52 years, an entertainer who made a career of family-friendly comedy. Over the past few years, more than 50 women have accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them in alleged attacks dating back decades. Cosby, 78, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Tamara Green, a former aspiring model and singer who alleges Cosby drugged and sexually abused her, filed the Massachusetts civil lawsuit in December 2014. She was later joined by six other women who say Cosby sexually assaulted them and defamed them by calling them liars.
Under Massachusetts law, spouses cannot be compelled to testify against one another in criminal cases.
They can be compelled to give depositions or testimony in civil matters, with one primary exception: A spouse does not have to answer questions about intimate conversations with his or her partner.
Camille Cosby's dual role as Cosby's wife and business partner muddy that distinction, legal experts said. She could be compelled to talk about one-on-one conversations with her husband that were purely about business.
Jacqueline Newman, a family law specialist at Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, said attorneys may hope to use questioning as a way to pressure Cosby into settling the suit.
"It's more for leverage," Newman said. "I would imagine that Bill is not keen that his wife is being pulled in to testify."
Most of Cosby's alleged crimes date too far back to be prosecuted. Pennsylvania officials last year criminally charged Cosby with sexually assaulting a woman in 2005.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Cynthia Osterman