Kobe Bryant Court Battle Heats Up Following Latest Mistaken Release
Court Official Explains How Bryant's Accusers Name Was Accidentally Released A Second Time
11:42 AM, Jul 29, 2004
There was more trouble in the Kobe Bryant case this week, as a document posted on the Colorado Judicial Branch official Web site once again listed the accuser's name. It's a mistake that has happened before.
A page listing Bryant court documents on the Web site was taken down temporarily so that workers could repost the document correctly, 7NEWS reported. The page was replaced with a message that said "The page you are trying to reach is not available."State courts spokeswoman Karen Salaz said the mistake stemmed from a new posting procedure and that a clerk chose the wrong document to post without a "critical safeguard" in place. The state court administrator plans to apologize to the accuser and her family and is weighing unspecified actions involving staff, Salaz said.
The Smoking Gun Web site published the two-page document, but did not reveal the woman's name.According to the court document, swabs taken from Bryant during a hospital exam found DNA from the NBA star and the woman accusing him of rape, but none from an unidentified person whose DNA showed up on other evidence in the case, the judge said. The defense wants to present the DNA evidence from Bryant's hospital exam to jurors. In the sealed filing, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said the prosecution does not intend to introduce that evidence. The filing orders both sides to come up with an agreement by Friday on its use. Bryant's attorneys have said they believe the 20-year-old woman had multiple sex partners in the three days before her hospital exam last summer, including one after her encounter with Bryant. Her attorney has denied she had another sexual partner in the 15-hour period before the exam.
The order, which included the accuser's name, appeared on a Web site where public filings are posted as a convenience to court staff and the media. The accidental posting was the latest in a string of mistakes that the accuser's attorney, John Clune, has said prompted her to consider ending her participation in the case. "It is inconceivable how this court can explain its continual pattern of revictimizing this 20-year-old girl," Clune said in a written statement Wednesday. "This judge must learn that the trust that a victim places in the judiciary is the foundation for the courage that all victims must have to endure the brutal nature of rape prosecutions." In September, her name was included in another filing posted on the Web site. Last fall, the Glenwood Springs hospital where she and Bryant were examined accidentally turned over her medical records to lawyers in the case. In late June, a court reporter accidentally e-mailed to The Associated Press and six other media groups transcripts of a closed-door hearing that dealt with aspects of the accuser's sex life and money she received from a state victims' compensation fund. Clune has asked Ruckriegle to halt use of the Internet and e-mail to distribute information about the case. The judge has not yet ruled on the request. Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, 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."After Friday's ruling, it would be shocking if Kobe Bryant pleaded guilty to a crime involving any kind of felony or sex assault designation. A civil settlement that makes the criminal case go away makes a lot of sense but has some serious complications," said 7NEWS legal analyst Craig Silverman. "First, there is the Michael Jackson problem. Who believed the King of Pop did not commit some sexual misconduct back in 1993 when he settled out of court with an alleged victim? Second, how does the deal get done? It would be unethical for Team Kobe or the prosecution to make the first move. In the law, criminal lawyers know that it is unethical to trade out criminal charges for money. The only one who can realistically initiate such discussions is the alleged victim."However, what may significant is that edited copies of transcripts from a closed-door hearing dealing with the alleged victim's sex life may soon be released.On Tuesday, Ruckriegle ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to work together to edit the transcripts.The transcripts were mistakenly e-mailed to seven news organizations by a court reporter last month, but the judge threatened contempt of court against anyone who released the details.No organization has published the contents, but the media groups challenged Ruckriegle's order as an unconstitutional restraint on a free press. Late Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer rejected a media request to overturn the order, but said the situation could be resolved by releasing the transcripts.Media attorneys on Thursday renewed their request to Breyer, saying Ruckriegle's "lethargy" in releasing the documents was a continued violation of the First Amendment guarantees. Widespread publication of Wednesday's mistakenly released order demonstrates that restricting publication "is not the appropriate remedy for such governmental miscues." The published reports did not create the kind of harm to the state's interests that might justify such restrictions, they said. "Indeed, (the news groups involved) respectfully submit that, as is so often the case, the government's effort to impose censorship in this case has attracted far more attention to these matters than any news reports about the transcripts that might have been published a month ago and long since forgotten," media attorney Lee Levine wrote. As attorneys in the case reviewed Ruckriegle's order, two attorneys for the alleged victim -- Lin Wood and John Clune -- also were meeting to discuss developments in the case. In the past week, the judge has cleared the way for the defense to use sensitive and potentially embarrassing information about her at trial.Specifically, Ruckriegle said Bryant's attorneys can present evidence and witness testimony about the accuser's sex life in the three days before her hospital exam. The defense wants to use the information to undermine her credibility and bolster its claim that her injuries could have been caused by sex with someone other than Bryant.Wood and Clune were not immediately available to comment on their meeting, but prosecutors said Monday the woman is still determined to go to trial.If she does, she has to be prepared for the defense team's assault on what she has told the police, Silverman said."Eagle County Detective Doug Winters testified that the alleged victim showed up on July 1, 2003 at Valley View Hospital wearing yellow knit underwear that were stained by semen that did not emanate from Kobe Bryant. These were not the same white panties that she told the cops she wore when the sexual act by Kobe Bryant occurred. Published reports by MSNBC, the Rocky Mountain News, the LA Times, and others have stated that swabbing of the alleged victim revealed the presence of fresh non-Kobe Bryant semen in her vaginal area," Silverman said.The defense claims the woman had sex with someone in the 15 hours after she left Bryant and before she contacted authorities, a charge her attorney has denied. The accuser acknowledged to police that the only sex she had prior to Bryant was with a man who wore a condom, and it was approximately 48 hours before she met Bryant.But then how did the "John Doe" semen show up during her rape kit exam and if it was there before her encounter with Bryant, then why wouldn't that semen also show up on Bryant's physical exam, Silverman wondered. Now that the defense has permission from the judge to bring up that evidence -- they will.