The judge in the Kobe Bryant sex assault case apologized Friday for mistakes that led to the release of sealed information.
With the parents of the alleged victim looking on in the courtroom during the hearing, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said he will do his best to make sure such mistakes do not happen in the future
"For all of those who come through these doors, victims and defendants alike, whose names are never known and never sought, I can only assure you I have learned lessons from these mistakes, and that we will give our best human effort not to let it happen again," he said.
Then he looked directly at the parents of the 20-year-old accuser and said, "Again, I apologize." They nodded in response.
The apology comes after previously sealed information about DNA evidence was accidentally posted on a state court Web site this week. The information included the accuser's last name and details of Bryant's hospital exam -- an exam that the defense says bolsters their argument that the woman had sex after her encounter with the NBA star.
Even before this mistake, a court reporter accidentally e-mailed transcripts of a closed-door hearing to several news organizations. Those transcripts were then released and showed that defense attorneys had claimed the woman was pursuing the case in part because she has received nearly $20,000 from a state victims' compensation fund.
The alleged victim was not in the courtroom but Bryant was, having arrived just after 8 a.m. It was one of the final two hearings before his trial begins Aug. 27.
During the public portion of the hearing, the prosecution and defense said they had agreed on how to use DNA evidence obtained from Bryant during a hospital exam after the alleged attack last summer. Ruckriegle said the agreement generally means either side could introduce the evidence at any point. Prosecutor Ingrid Bakke later said the only DNA evidence she plans to use was from the alleged victim's blood found on Bryant's T-shirt.
The DNA evidence collected from Bryant was thrown out this month as part of a larger defense request, but the defense now wants the exam results admitted because it presumably shows the accuser had sex with someone after Bryant and before she went to the hospital. Her attorney has vehemently denied that claim.
The judge then closed the courtroom for the rest of the day to hear requests by Bryant's attorneys to keep his tape-recorded statements to investigators under seal until trial and to limit the prosecution's use of those statements.
Legal experts speculated that Bryant's attorneys might want to keep embarrassing, but not necessarily incriminating, statements out of the trial.
On Thursday, Ruckriegle released an edited transcript of part of a closed-door hearing in June in which the NBA star's attorney argued for the ability to use crime victim compensation records as evidence.
In the redacted transcript defense attorney Pamela Mackey said that the woman, now 20, received more than $17,000 in compensation for mental health care, far above the state cap of $1,125 for such treatment.
She also said the woman received $2,300 in lost wages and suggested the money was provided as an incentive to continue participation in the case.
Mackey said certain required paperwork was missing, and said the woman would have to reimburse the fund if she was found to have lied.
"Miss (redacted) has profited to an enormous amount, $20,000. I would suspect to most people in this county (this) is a lot of money, most of our jurors (would think that), and she has done that on the basis of a false allegation and has persisted in that false allegation," she said.
An attorney for the woman, John Clune, called Mackey's arguments "nothing more than tabloid accusations which are filled with inaccurate information." He declined to elaborate.
"Although the family greatly appreciates the availability of something like the crime victim compensation fund, the amounts that have been paid out are a small fraction of the financial strain that this case has placed upon both the victim and her parents," Clune said. "Ms. Mackey's suggestion that this girl or her family has profited from this case is obscene."
It was unclear whether the information would be admitted as evidence. Ruckriegle's order on use of the information was sealed.
Former prosecutor Karen Steinhauser said she doesn't believe compensation funds have ever been an incentive for somebody to lie to obtain services, which can include health care, home repairs or funeral expenses.
"The fact that her injuries may be more psychological shouldn't make it so that this now gets used against her," said Steinhauser, a visiting professor at the University of Denver College of Law.
Attorney Larry Pozner, a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said he had never seen compensation amounts so high.
"In an ordinary case, this would be a bombshell," he said. "In this case, so many bombshells have already hit this is only a grenade. But it's a pattern and the pattern is this woman has been given special treatment and nobody on the government side wants to talk about it."
Bryant's attorneys have said injuries found on the woman could have been caused by sex with someone else. They have noted DNA from someone else was found on the woman's body and in underwear she wore to the hospital.
But according to the mistakenly released order, swabs taken from Bryant's body contained DNA from him and the woman, but not from an unidentified third person whose genetic material was found on other pieces of evidence in the case.
Ruckriegle had earlier ruled that the woman's sex life over the three days before her July 1, 2003, hospital exam can be used as evidence.
Ruckriegle released the redacted transcript under pressure from the state Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer after unedited transcripts were accidentally e-mailed to seven news organizations including The Associated Press.
None has published information from them, but they are challenging an order Ruckriegle issued barring publication.
Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to a felony sexual assault charge, saying he had consensual sex with a 19-year-old employee of the Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.
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