Judge decides to shield most other documents

Updated: August 22, 2003, 11:34 AM ET
Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. -- A judge has decided to keep out of the public's view most of the documents in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case that could provide clues to what happened in his hotel suite.

Man charged with
threatening accuser
A 22-year-old Iowa man was arrested Thursday and charged with threatening to kill Kobe Bryant's accuser.

John Roche of Iowa City left a profanity-laced message on the answering machine of the accuser in Eagle on July 27, according to a federal grand jury indictment. The caller threatened to assault the woman with a coat hanger and repeatedly said he would kill her.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver, confirmed Bryant's accuser was the target but declined further comment.

Roche is charged with making a threatening telephone call across state lines. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

- Associated Press

Media organizations that sought the documents are considering whether to appeal Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett's order. He ruled Thursday that the release of the arrest affidavit, search warrant and other material could jeopardize Bryant's rights.

He also said releasing the information would subject the woman who accused the Los Angeles Lakers All-Star of rape to "further intimidation, harassment and abuse." The ruling did not detail what the woman has gone through.

Gannett agreed to unseal the arrest warrant and related documents that are unlikely to reveal anything beyond describing the crimes that sheriff's deputies alleged Bryant committed and the fact that he was arrested and later released on $25,000 bond. Gannett put his order on hold and gave attorneys 10 days to appeal.

The public has no way of knowing whether authorities acted properly in arresting Bryant if the documents are withheld, said Chris Beall, an attorney for the media organizations.

"What the judge is saying is that in those documents were statements that have little relevance and are unnecessarily prejudicial and inflammatory," Beall said. "I think the voters in Eagle County would like to know whether Sheriff (Joseph) Hoy's office engaged in improper conduct."

Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said they were considering an appeal, too.

Court documents in the high-profile case have been sealed since Bryant was arrested last month. Media organizations sought their release over the objections of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Bryant, 24, has been accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel worker June 30 in his suite at an exclusive resort in nearby Edwards. He has said the sex was consensual.

Kobe Bryant
This booking photo of Bryant is the only document released thus far on his arrest.

He is scheduled to return to Eagle for an Oct. 9 preliminary hearing where Gannett will decide whether there is enough evidence to hold Bryant for trial in state district court.

The media organizations that sought the release of the documents included NBC, CNN, The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Vail Daily newspaper.

In his decision, Gannett said the search warrant and arrest affidavit contain "factual statements describing graphic details of the alleged sexual encounter," medical test results, evidence that can be challenged in court and statements of potential witnesses.

He said releasing court documents with details blacked out, or redacted, wasn't an option because the prejudicial material was too intertwined with other information.

"The court concludes that there is a substantial probability that the defendant's right to a fair trial would be prejudiced by disclosure of the affidavit and search warrant materials and that such prejudice could be prevented by non-disclosure," Gannett wrote.

Gannett has threatened to bar from his courtroom news organizations that identify Bryant's accuser. He did allow cameras in the courtroom for Bryant's initial court appearance Aug. 6, over the objections of defense attorneys.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press