A Massachusetts court has ordered Bill Cosby’s wife to testify in a defamation lawsuit against her husband.
Seven women are suing the comic because they say he called them liars after they publicly accused him of sexually assaulting them.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers subpoenaed the entertainer’s wife, Camille Cosby, last month on the grounds that she was her husband’s business manager.
However, Ms Cosby’s legal team filed a deposition order on Wednesday to avoid having to give evidence.
Citing a “spousal disqualification rule”, the attorneys argued that information from the couple’s private conversations was privileged.
But in Thursday’s ruling, United States Magistrate Judge David Hennessy said he would “deny her (Camille Cosby’s) motion in its entirety”.
He said there was “no merit” in her lawyers’ claim that “Massachusetts’ marital disqualification law renders her incompetent to testify in this matter”.
The subpoena directs Ms Cosby, 71, to testify at a deposition hearing on 6 January.
The plaintiffs – Barbara Bowman, Tamara Green, Angela Leslie, Louisa Moritz, Therese Serignese, Joan Tarshis and Linda Traitz – each allege they were “drugged and/or sexually assaulted” by Bill Cosby.
They are among more than 50 women who have levelled similar allegations at the star.
Cosby, who denies wrongdoing, has countersued the women, saying their accusations damaged his reputation.
On Thursday, Bill Cosby posted his first tweet in months, expressing gratitude to supporters.
“Friends and fans, Thank You,” he wrote.
But Twitter users responded with a welter of abuse, labelling him a “monster” and accusing him of “horrendous crimes against women”.
Camille Cosby married the comedian and star of The Cosby Show in 1964 when she was 19.
Last year, she released a statement describing her husband as a victim of unvetted accusations.
“The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work,” she said.
Cosby, a once-beloved cultural icon, also appeared in court in Pennsylvania on Wednesday to face felony charges of sexual assault dating back to 2004.
The 78-year-old Emmy winner could face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted in that case.
Cosby’s squeaky clean reputation began to crumble in October 2014, when black comedian Hannibal Buress denounced him on stage as a rapist and hypocrite.