SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Camille Cosby has faithfully stood by her husband, Bill, for more than half a century, through the glory days of Fat Albert and Dr. Huxtable and the more recent years of lawsuits and a criminal charge of aggravated indecent assault.
On Sunday, despite a flurry of late emergency motions filed by Bill Cosby’s attorneys to halt the proceedings, U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni ordered the comic legend’s wife to give testimony on Monday about her embattled husband. She was deposed in a suit filed by seven women claiming that Cosby and his representatives defamed them, labeling them liars after they came forward with their assault allegations.
Monday’s deposition, conducted at a Marriott hotel, is believed to be the first testimony Camille Cosby has given since more than 50 women went public with allegations that Cosby sexually assaulted and, in several cases, drugged them. The behavior, the women say, spanned decades.
Although Camille Cosby sat for seven hours with eight lawyers, four for each side, she gave only 2 1/2 hours of testimony, according to lead plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph Cammarata. The magistrate judge had to be contacted twice, Cammarata said.
“I got the sense that she didn’t want to be there today,” Cammarata said.
Tamara Green, a former model and lawyer, filed the initial suit against the performer in December 2014 in federal court here. The Cosbys’ primary residence is an estate in Shelburne Falls, an hour’s drive north of Springfield.
Cosby’s attorneys argued that Camille Cosby “has had no involvement with the facts of allegations underlying this case” and that her participation will create “an unnecessary media circus and personal security threat that serves no purpose other than to harass and embarrass her.” Cosby filed a countersuit against the women in December.
“She is someone close to him for 50 years,” countered Cammarata, the plaintiffs’ Washington-based attorney, while he was on the federal courthouse steps before the deposition commenced. The testimony of Camille Cosby, who has served as her husband’s business manager, is crucial, Cammarata argued, to learning about the comedian’s “relationship to her and his relationship to other women.” Cammarata added: “Finally, we can move forward and vindicate” our clients.
After the deposition, Cammarata added that “for every 15 minutes of testimony, we spent 45 minutes of the day.” The defense attorneys declined to comment.
Camille Cosby, the mother of four daughters and a son, Ennis, who was murdered in 1997, has stayed largely silent while the allegations against her husband have mounted. In a 2014 statement, she noted: “None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim. But the question should be asked — who is the victim?”
While Cosby’s attorneys defend him against the defamation action in Springfield, his massive legal team is trying to fend off the felony charge in Pennsylvania, where he is accused of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletics employee, in 2004 at his suburban Philadelphia estate. Cosby was arraigned in December but has yet to enter a plea.
In Springfield, Monique Pressley, a Washington defense attorney for Cosby, argued against having the Marriott serve as a venue. In the morning, a crush of television cameras lined the driveway outside the hotel lobby. The news media would “intimidate or emotionally aggravate this witness,’’ she said. Mastroianni, the judge, responded that it was not the first time a “deposition of some notoriety” has taken place at the hotel.
The defense’s solution was to erect a row of black curtains to block reporters’ view of the proceedings in a hotel meeting room, much like a professional orchestra audition. Occasionally, the media could hear chatter and laughter from behind the drapes. The other event in the meeting area was the Professional Salon Services Brazilian Blowout Roadshow.
Camille Cosby mostly eluded cameras but was photographed entering the hotel through the parking garage wearing an olive loose-form coat and sunglasses, carrying an oversize multi-plaid satchel.
The judge ruled that she “may refuse to answer deposition questions which call for testimony prohibited by the marital disqualification rule.”
She is scheduled to resume her deposition March 14, in a location to be determined, with a remaining 4 1/2 hours of testimony allowed. For this civil suit, Bill Cosby’s deposition has yet to be scheduled.