SPRINGFIELD, Mass. >> A federal judge should throw out a defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby filed by three women accusing him of decades-old sex crimes because the remarks were personal opinions protected under the U.S. Constitution, his lawyers said Monday.
Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz say in their lawsuit that their reputations were tarnished after the comedian, through his representatives, defended himself as they stepped forward in recent years with accusations against him.
The comments in question range from brief statements dismissing their accusations as "ridiculous claims" and "absurd fabrication" to longer remarks that attempt to discredit the accusers by highlighting their pasts.
"As the old saying goes, ‘consider the source,’" ends one statement that touches on Traitz’s criminal and prison record.
But Cosby lawyer Robert LoBue argued in a nearly two-hour hearing in federal court Monday that many of the comments are constitutionally protected personal opinions.
At least one of the remarks, he said, was made so long ago that it exceeds the statute of limitations for legal action and shouldn’t be considered.
Joseph Cammarata, a lawyer for the three women, disputed those arguments.
He also challenged the notion that Cosby was acting in "self-defense" in issuing the sometimes-combative statements because his character was under attack, saying that argument doesn’t apply when a person knows his accusers are telling the truth.
"The law recognizes that if you believe that your good name and reputation has been tarnished that you have an opportunity to present your case in a forum where truth can be tried. It’s that simple," Cammarata said after the hearing.
Cosby’s lawyers declined to comment after the hearing.
The judge didn’t immediately rule on the lawsuit, which focuses on the defamation allegations and not on the women’s assault allegations. Their lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Cosby, who has a home in western Massachusetts, wasn’t at the federal court hearing, but one of his accusers, Tamara Green, was.
Green, a 68-year-old lawyer from San Diego, says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in her Los Angeles-area apartment in the early 1970s.
Green was among the first women to publicly come forward with allegations against Cosby, a move she says has had a negative impact on her personal life.
"Strangers speaking about me and believing that I’m a liar is very painful," she said Monday. "Sometimes it’s too emotionally traumatizing."
Green said she’s always been open to telling people about the experience, but few were paying attention in those early years.
"I was never quiet. I’m not a quiet person," she said. "From the first day to this day, I have told everybody who would sit still this story because I thought it was important and I thought it might save other people."
The Associated Press generally does not publish the names of people alleging sexual assault, but Green, Serignese and Traitz have publicly discussed their allegations.
The three women are among dozens who have stepped forward in recent years with accusations against Cosby, who hasn’t been charged with any crime and has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Model Janice Dickinson has filed a separate defamation suit against Cosby in a California court after she accused him last year of raping her in 1982.