Haddon calls it a waste of time

Updated: November 20, 2003, 8:39 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Kobe Bryant's defense team ridiculed the prosecution's request for an investigation of media leaks Wednesday, saying even the judge in the Oklahoma City bombing trial considered such a probe a waste of time.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, asked the judge to begin sealing certain evidence-related requests by attorneys in the sexual assault case against the NBA star. They contend such details could influence the jury pool.

The court filings are the latest salvo in what legal experts expect to be a sharp fight as attorneys try to determine what evidence will be admitted at Bryant's trial.

State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle has scheduled hearings Dec. 19 and Jan. 23 to discuss requests by both sides, and he could make decisions then about the evidence.

In her filing, deputy prosecutor Ingrid Bakke asked the judge to seal court filings discussing evidence, saying publicity could influence prospective jurors.

Some of that evidence may not be admitted at trial, Bakke wrote.

"The concern is (prosecutors) don't want the public hearing all this evidence that might not come before a jury because it does taint the jury pool," said Karen Steinhauser, a former Denver prosecutor and visiting professor at the University of Denver School of Law.

For the same reason, she said, Ruckriegle may end up closing motions hearings to the public to ensure the alleged victim's privacy and Bryant's fair-trial rights.

Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. He is accused of raping a 19-year-old worker at a Colorado resort where he stayed June 30.

Bryant has said the two had consensual sex. No trial date has been set.

The other court filing came from defense attorney Hal Haddon, who said the judge should deny prosecutors' request for a hearing to determine who might have leaked information to the media that another man's semen was found in the accuser's underwear.

Initially, prosecutors said they believed Haddon might have given that information to a retired judge, who then talked to a reporter. Prosecutors later said they were not asking for an investigation specifically of Haddon, but a probe to determine the source of the leak.

The defense said District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has already had his own investigator look into the matter and the whole matter should be handled by the Eagle County judge who presided over the first phase of the case if it goes that far.

Haddon also said a leaks investigation would "divert attention and resources from the substantive issues in this case," and cited a 1996 order by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch of Denver denying a similar request in the Oklahoma City bombing trial.

"There is little hope that this diversion from the task of trial preparation would be sufficiently productive to satisfy the expressed concerns or allay the suspicions raised in these filings," Matsch wrote.

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined to discuss Haddon's arguments, saying any such comment would have to be made before Ruckriegle.

But she denied a statement Haddon made in Wednesday's filing that Hurlbert had declined to investigate whether leaks came from the Eagle County sheriff's office because of acrimony between the two agencies.

"The district attorney never stated that," she said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press