Kobe Prosecutors Were Worried

NBA Los Angeles Lakers' star Kobe Bryant enters court at the Justice Center for a pretrial motions hearing Monday May 10, 2004, in Eagle, Colo. Bryant is appearing in Eagle County District Court facing charges of sexual assault. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) AP

Transcripts released from a closed two-day hearing in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case provide rare detail of the fierce battles over evidence, including a candid assessment by the prosecution about its chances should the judge rule on a number of issues.

District Judge Terry Ruckriegle redacted 68 lines out of some 200 pages of June 21-22 testimony dealing in part with Colorado's rape-shield law. The majority of the transcripts were released Monday.

"If in fact you were to rule that all of the rape-shield evidence were going to come in in this case, I'm thinking the prosecution is going to sit down and re-evaluate the quality of its case and its chances of a successful prosecution," Prosecutor Ingrid Bakke told the judge.

The comments were included in transcripts that were mistakenly e-mailed by a court reporter to news organizations, which battled Ruckriegle to the U.S. Supreme Court to publish the contents.

In releasing the transcripts, Ruckriegle said he concluded he must disclose the details despite concerns about compromising the privacy rights of the accuser and Bryant's right to a fair trial.

"It is with great reluctance that this court releases these transcripts," Ruckriegle wrote. "The effect of this release is to present narrowly limited, one-side evidence and argument to the public prior to the selection of a jury and without reference to the totality of the evidence."

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan did not return a message left late Monday. The voicemail of the accuser's attorney, John Clune, was full and a second attorney, Lin Wood, did not immediately return a call.

Nathan Siegel, an attorney for the media groups, said: "We're pleased that Judge Ruckriegle makes clear that our persistence in pursuing this to the Supreme Court has led to releasing a significant amount of information that had been restrained."

Victim's advocate groups had been opposing release of the transcripts, reports Rick Sallinger of CBS Denver station KCNC.

"It was the intent of the Colorado state legislature under our rape shield law to keep these things private until it's deemed relevant to the case at hand," said Cynthia stone of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Bakke's comments came near the end of a hearing that dealt primarily with the accuser's sexual activities around the time of her June 30, 2003, encounter with Bryant.

The defense has claimed the woman had multiple sexual partners in the three days surrounding her time with Bryant. It has suggested her injuries could have been caused during sex with someone other than the Los Angeles Lakers star.

Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, saying he had consensual sex with the woman, now 20, at a Vail-area resort last summer. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000.

Ruckriegle late last month said the defense can present evidence about the woman's sexual activities in the three days before a July 1, 2003, hospital exam, saying it is relevant to help determine the cause of her injuries, the source of DNA evidence and her credibility.

Also in July, the judge allowed Bryant's tape-recorded statements to investigators and a T-shirt stained with the accuser's blood to be admitted. He has not yet ruled on a prosecution request to limit testimony about the woman's mental health, including what friends described as two suicide attempts.

During the June hearing, Bakke told the judge the prosecution's case could be damaged if one or more of those decisions favors the defense. "That ruling, the ruling on the mental health issues and the suppression of the defendant's statements make a significant change in the case, meaning the parties may have more or less willingness to negotiate based on that," she said.

Ruckriegle told Bakke he understood but he would not allow plea negotiations once a trial date was set. Three days later, he set an Aug. 27 trial date. He has twice extended the deadline for a plea deal, most recently to July 28.

During the hearing, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said there were brief discussions about a plea deal, but the two sides were "very far apart." The defense team has never commented on the possibility of a plea deal and legal experts say there is little chance they would seek one.
  • Lauren Johnston

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