Prodded by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judge in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case indicated Tuesday he wants to settle a First Amendment fight with the media by releasing at least some of the details from a closed-door hearing on the accuser's sex life and other potential evidence.
District Judge Terry Ruckriegle ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to work together and offer a redacted copy of transcripts from the June 21-22 hearing. He asked for the edited copy and the attorneys' reasons for keeping anything sealed by 5 p.m. Tuesday.The Colorado Supreme Court has denied media organizations their request to publish the material, and on Monday night the U.S. Supreme denied a request to hear an appeal on the ruling.Ruckriegle said after he has received suggested redactions from the defense and prosecution, he will decide if he will allow the material to be published.The documents from the June 21-22 hearing are at the center of a First Amendment legal fight. Ruckriegle has threatened contempt of court for any news organization that releases details from the e-mailed transcripts, an order upheld by the state Supreme Court but challenged by the media groups as an unconstitutional restraint of a free press.Late Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer rejected a media request to overturn Ruckriegle's order but said the news organizations could refile their appeal as early as Wednesday and hinted that Ruckriegle should act. "Their release, I believe, is imminent ... I recognize the importance of the constitutional interests at issue," Breyer wrote. "But a brief delay will permit the state courts to clarify, perhaps avoid, the controversy at issue here."Breyer also noted a key evidentiary ruling last week may make the court fight moot: Ruckriegle has decided to allow the accuser's sex life in the three days before her rape exam to be admitted as evidence so the defense can argue that her injuries could have been caused by sex with someone other than Bryant.The judge has not released details of what will be allowed as evidence. But the First Amendment fight centers on a hearing at which the woman's sexual activities and money received from a state victims' compensation fund were at issue.The documents were mistakenly sent to The Associated Press, The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, Fox News, ESPN and the television show "Celebrity Justice." None has published the details.Bryant's attorneys have argued that injuries and DNA evidence found on the woman during a hospital examination 15 hours after the alleged attack could have come from sexual partners other than Bryant, including one after she left Bryant and before she contacted authorities.Her attorney, John Clune, has denied she had sex with anyone after her encounter with Bryant.The defense also has argued the woman might have received unusually large amounts of money from a state victims' compensation fund as an incentive to participate in the case.Ruckriegle has not yet ruled on whether information about compensation she received can be given to jurors.Prosecutors said the woman is still determined to go to trial despite the judge's ruling, which will allow sensitive and potentially embarrassing evidence and witness testimony. "We're still planning on moving forward toward a trial," prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said Monday.In his decision, Ruckriegle extended the deadline for a plea deal to Wednesday. The woman's attorneys, Lin Wood and Clune, met Tuesday to discuss the case. Wood said the talks would include Ruckriegle's recent ruling on the evidence, but he declined to offer specifics.Since the ruling, defense attorneys have subpoenaed at least five students at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, the alleged victim's former school.The defense wants them to testify during the trial, said Johnray Strickland, the accuser's former boyfriend who testified this spring during a closed-door hearing. He told the Vail Daily that he had believed his role in the case was over. "I don't know how much more do they want me to say, beyond repeating that I was not in that room," he said.Bryant, 25, faces a single charge of felony sexual assault stemming from the June 2003 encounter with the woman, then a 19-year-old desk worker at a Vail-area resort. He has pleaded not guilty, saying they had consensual sex.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.Bryant's trial begins Aug. 27.Read more of the judge's ruling on the court's Web site.