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The founder of the funk-rock group Sly & the Family Stone lost a round in court today when a judge ruled a defamation claim within a countersuit by his former manager can move forward.

Gerald Goldstein maintains Sylvester Stewart implied he was a thief when he told fans at the Cochella Music and Arts Festival on April 18, “F—- slander. The white boy’s name is Jerry Goldstein. He’s part of it. What he did was he stole so much money; at the same time, I made so much money that I didn’t know I was being stolen from.’’

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney denied a motion by Stewart’s lawyers to dismiss the claim. They said the comments were protected free speech, but Mooney said that Goldstein’s attorneys had presented a case for defamation that on its face is enough to move forward.

“I’m not saying that you may not ultimately prevail,’’ the judge told Stewart’s lawyers.

The other causes of action within the countersuit were not part of today’s motion.

Stewart, 67, a.k.a. Sly Stone, began the legal battle when he sued Goldstein Jan. 28, alleging fraud, breach of contract and the diversion and misappropriation of the singer’s royalties and assets for more than 20 years.

The suit asks for an accounting from royalty collection companies to determine actual amounts taken, which it estimates to be $20 million to $30 million.

The suit also seeks punitive damages.