Comedian BillCosbywon the right on Monday todelayprovidingevidencein a lawsuit inMassachusetts, in which he is accused of defaming women with public assertions that they fabricated sexual misconduct allegations against him.
In his ruling, the federal judge hearing thecasecited a riskCosbymight be forced to disclose facts prosecutors would use in a separate criminalcaseagainst him in Pennsylvania.
Cosby, who personified the model American family man in his long-running hit television series "TheCosbyShow," was charged last year in Pennsylvania with sexually assaulting former basketball coach Andrea Constand in 2004.
He also has been sued in civil courts in the United States by at least nine women, including seven in thecaseinMassachusetts.
In that civilcase, U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni concluded in a 13-page ruling thatCosbyhas a right todelayprovidingevidenceto avoid "incriminating himself in the criminalcase" by disclosing anything that may "support a conviction."
The decision follows a similar order last week by a California state judge whodelayedCosby's scheduled deposition and otherevidencein a civil lawsuit accusingCosbyof sexually abusing a woman in 1974 when she was 15 years old.
In the California ruling, which was seen as a precedent in other civilcases againstCosby, the judge also put on hold discovery for the plaintiff, Judy Huth.
But the ruling on Monday from Mastroianni took a slightly different approach. The judge, citing the need to move thecaseforward, required the plaintiffs and third parties to provideevidencewhen asked by attorneys forCosby.
Over the past two years, more than 50 women have publicly accusedCosbyof rape and other sexual wrongdoing. Most involve encounters said to have occurred a decade or more ago, exceeding the statute of limitations for legal action.
Cosby, 78, is free on bail in the Pennsylvaniacase, which is the only criminal prosecution he faces.