Judge Will Allow Bryant Accuser's Sexual History At Trial

Ruckriegle Says Sexual Conduct 72 Hours Before Rape Exam Relevant To Case

In what is being called as a major blow to the prosecution and a major victory for the defense, the judge overseeing the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case ruled Friday that some of the accuser's sexual history will be allowed at trial.

Kobe Bryant attended numerous pre-trial hearings in Eagle County before the criminal case against him was dismissed.

"All evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, of the alleged victim's sexual conduct within approximately 72 hours preceding her physical examination conducted at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs on July 1, 2003," will be admitted at trial, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle ruled.

All physical evidence taken by law enforcement and the nurse examiners from the alleged victim, including all items of clothing and swabs from the physical examination will also be admitted because they are relevant to help determine the source of DNA evidence and whether the woman's injuries were caused by Bryant, the judge said.

According to court documents, Bryant's defense team claims that the accuser had sex "within the two days preceding and within less than 15 hours following her encounter with Bryant" and have suggested her injuries could have been caused by someone other than the NBA star.

The defense claims that DNA from semen found inside the accuser after the alleged rape did not belong to Bryant and they want to know who it came from. They argue that the accuser had sex with someone other than Bryant after her encounter with him and before she went to a hospital to have a rape kit test, and now because of the judge's ruling, they can argue that in court.

"This could be the essential end of the case. It's hard to see how the prosecution can possibly prevail if the defense can put on evidence that she had sex after Kobe Bryant and before she went to the cops," said 7NEWS Legal Analyst Craig Silverman. "Not only is it inconsistent with the way most jurors would expect a true rape victim to act, it is inconsistent with what the alleged victim has said."

The woman and her lawyer vigorously deny that she had sex with anyone in the hours and days after the alleged rape but the accuser had acknowledged that she had sex with the hotel's bellman two days before her encounter with Bryant, and had sexual relations with her ex-boyfriend two weeks before the June 30 incident.

The judge also allowed the defense team to discuss the relationship between the alleged victim and each outcry witness, including that bellman, Bobby Pietrack.

"Such evidence may include whether sexual intimacy was and is a part of each relationship," the ruling said.

Colorado's strict rape-shield law, which generally prevents the sex life of an alleged assault victim from being admitted as evidence, does not apply to all the information Bryant's lawyers wanted to introduce, the judge said.

"This a huge ruling for Kobe Bryant's defense team. This is the kind of ruling defense attorney dream about. Throughout this case, the prosecution has said that other sexual conduct is irrelevant and it doesn't matter. Now, the court has said this is relevant and we will let a jury decide how much it matters," Silverman said.

Cynthia Stone, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the ruling was discouraging but said the final decision will be up to Eagle County jurors.

"This stuff is going to be put in front of the jury along with all the other evidence -- it's just a small piece of that," she told the Associated Press. "The ultimate question the jury has to answer is whether Kobe Bryant forced this woman to have sex against her will."

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

Jury selection begins Aug. 27.

Friday's ruling can be found on the court's Web site.

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