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Kobe Bryant Is In The Clear

NBA Los Angeles Lakers' star Kobe Bryant leaves the Justice Center in Eagle, Colo., on Monday, May 10, 2004, during a lunch break for a pretrial hearing in Bryant's sexual assault case. (AP Photo/Helen D. Richardson, File)
AP
The judge in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case denied prosecutors' request for an indefinite delay in the trial late Friday, saying there was no justification for a postponement.

But in two other rulings, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle sided with prosecutors. In one, he denied defense requests to admit evidence about two purported suicide attempts by the victim before her encounter with Bryant and about her use of any prescription medications.

In the other, Ruckriegle granted prosecution requests to limit testimony about the woman's medical and mental health history and any drug and alcohol use.

The rulings came amid intense speculation about whether prosecutors intended to drop the case after a series of setbacks that prompted them to seek a delay in the trial, scheduled to begin with jury selection on Aug. 27.

Among them was the release of a transcript of a closed-door hearing — which prosecutors called "extremely harmful" — in which defense witness Elizabeth Johnson explained why she believed the woman had sex with another man within 15 hours after her encounter with Bryant.

Attorneys for the accuser this week filed a civil lawsuit against Bryant in federal court. Defense attorney Pamela Mackey said in a filing made public Friday that the lawsuit showed the woman was pursuing a false allegation in "the hope of a large monetary award."

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined to comment on either of Friday's rulings, citing a sweeping gag order. She did say prosecutors still plan to go to trial as scheduled.

"Nothing has changed," she said.

Ruckriegle did not provide details about the defense arguments to use the information about the woman's medical and mental health because witness testimony was taken behind closed doors this spring.

Prosecutors cited the release of the transcript as a reason for delaying the trial. They said the testimony, combined with a gag order preventing them from rebutting it, threatened the chances for a fair trial.

They also argued that because Ruckriegle had not yet ruled on whether the evidence about the woman's mental and medical history could be admitted, they had too little time to decide whether to hire expert witnesses to challenge the evidence.

Prosecutors also accused the defense of failing to turn over information about DNA test results.

Mackey disputed those arguments in her filing.

Ruckriegle said he saw no merit to prosecutors' argument that the release of the transcript should prompt a delay. He said none of the information in the transcript had been ruled irrelevant or inadmissible.

"(Prosecutors) will, of course, have the opportunity at trial to present rebuttal evidence to mitigate any prejudicial publicity stemming from the premature release," Ruckriegle said.

He also noted that after the transcript was released, the woman's attorneys "embarked upon a media campaign," commenting on the merits of the case and criticizing courthouse mistakes that led to the release of the transcript and the accidental posting of the woman's name on a state court Web site.

So much information about the case has already been reported in the media that publicity about the transcripts does not justify a delay, the judge said.

He dismissed prosecutors' complaints about the defense turning over DNA test results.