Bill Cosby in 2009
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images for Meet the Press

In a major blow to Bill Cosby as he tries to defend himself against numerous allegations of sex assault, a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled Friday that a defamation lawsuit filed by three women can move forward, reports the Associated Press. Ā 

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni rejected an effort by Cosby's legal team to dismiss the case before it ever reached a jury. His lawyers argued that the remarks were "personal opinions protected by the First Amendment and legal declarations made in his defense."

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The suit, filed by Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz, says that "Cosby's representatives damaged their reputations by denying their allegations in sometimes disparaging language," the report says. They accuse Cosby of drugging them and then having unwanted sexual contact with them decades ago.

Defamatory statements, they say, include those dismissing their accusations as "ridiculous claims" and "absurd fabrication," as well as longer remarks that sought to discredit the accusers, according to AP. Mastroianni rejected Cosby's claim that the statements were legal declarations made in self-defense.

"The court recognizes that some jurisdictions do apply a version of the conditional self-defense privilege, which allows individuals, in certain circumstances, to publish defamatory responsive statements necessary to defend their reputation," the judge wrote in his 38-page ruling, writes the news outlet. "However ā€¦ such a privilege does not permit a defendant to knowingly publish false statements of fact."

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AP left messages for Cosby's attorneys, but calls were not returned.

Read more at Yahoo! News.