Attorney: Online Postings Puts Bryant Accuser In Danger
Judge To Decide If Cameras Will Be Allowed In Courtroom
10:58 AM, Jul 19, 2004
The attorney for the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape urged the judge Monday to stop posting court filings and other case details on the Web, saying it has put his client in danger.
Kobe Bryant attended numerous pre-trial hearings in Eagle County before the criminal case against him was dismissed.
The practice has prompted the 20-year-old woman at least twice to consider ending her participation in the case, attorney John Clune said. Those times, he said, were "when somebody who was sworn to protect her made mistakes."District Judge Terry Ruckriegle did not rule on Clune's request to stop using electronic media to distribute information in the case. The arguments came during the first of three hearings scheduled before the NBA star's trial begins Aug. 27.As the woman's parents and the NBA star looked on, Clune said the accidental posting of her name on a state court Web site drew death threats last fall and the accidental e-mail release of transcripts from a closed-door hearing could cause her "immeasurable" harm if published.Clune also noted the Glenwood Springs hospital where the woman was examined accidentally gave attorneys for both sides too many details about her health. He said he believes all the mistakes were inadvertent, but they have caused lasting harm to his client and her family."If they don't trust the system, it undermines their desire to go forward," he said. "She and her family are under the perception that the court won't protect her. That fundamental lack of faith and trust is really the most damaging and lasting effect."Prosecutors have had no indication the woman would stop participating in the case, spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said.The defense asked the judge to reject Clune's motion. Defense attorney Hal Haddon said it appeared he was trying to influence the judge's pending decision on whether the woman's sex life can be used against her at trial."This may be about Mr. Clune's desire to make a ringing speech about victims' rights," Haddon said. "It's a transparent and truly outrageous attempt to influence this court on a matter that's critical to Mr. Bryant's rights."Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the woman at the Vail-area resort where she worked last summer. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.Ruckriegle has already decided most major issues in the case, but he has not ruled on one of the biggest issues remaining -- whether the woman's sex life is relevant and can be admitted as evidence. The defense wants to argue to the jury that injuries found on the woman could have been caused by sex with someone else in the days surrounding her encounter with Bryant.Prosecutors and Clune say the woman's sex life is irrelevant to the question of whether she consented to sex with Bryant.Ruckriegle could issue that ruling within the week, said state courts spokeswoman Karen Salaz. She said it was of "paramount importance," and said the judge has made it his highest priority.Closed-door arguments were held Monday on whether cell-phone messages sent and received by the alleged victim in the hours after her encounter with Bryant, along with money she received from the state crime victims' compensation program, can be used as evidence. The defense has suggested she received an unusually large amount of money as an incentive to continue participating in the case.The bulk of the open hearing dealt with Clune's argument that a series of mistakes has endangered his client.In the first, a document with the woman's name was posted on the court Web site in September. Within 90 minutes, court staff had removed the document and reposted a redacted version.Last month, the transcripts from the closed-door hearing on the woman's sex life and the compensation money were e-mailed to a handful of media organizations, including The Associated Press. Ruckriegle ordered the organizations not to publish the contents -- none has done so -- and he was backed up Monday by the Colorado Supreme Court.Clune said his client and her family had received numerous death threats, at one time receiving several calls a minute for a stretch of five weeks shortly after Bryant was charged. Haddon said there have been death threats against potential defense witnesses, too.A spokeswoman for the Eagle County sheriff's office did not return a call seeking further details. FBI special agent Monique Kelso said no threat investigations were under way in the agency's Denver office.Also Monday, attorneys for media organizations argued in favor of allowing still and video cameras in the courtroom during the trial.The defense, the prosecution and Clune all say photo coverage, especially via live TV, could influence jurors and prompt witnesses to be less than candid about intimate and potentially embarrassing information.