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Motions of proof can stay sealed

EAGLE, Colo. -- The judge in the Kobe Bryant case on Tuesday
rejected a motion by the prosecution to seal any court filing
related to evidence in the high-profile sexual assault case.

Instead, state District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said attorneys in
the case can file motions with "limited factual allegations"
about Bryant and his accuser that he might later rule inadmissable
at trial.

He said filings to back up the allegations can be filed
separately -- and those can be sealed.

The judge urged attorneys to make such filings "sparingly and
wisely" and he chided the prosecution for citing "no legal
authority" in its argument to seal evidentiary details. The judge
even underlined the final two words.

"While it is admirable to attempt to prevent potential tainting
of the jury pool, giving counsel free reign to file any such
motions under seal is potentially problematic," Ruckriegle wrote,
referring to the media coverage of the case.

The judge said he agreed the coverage might threaten the ability
to hold a fair trial, but backed the solution offered by media
attorneys and Bryant's defense team of filing sealed motions of
proof.

A prosecution spokeswoman, Krista Flannigan, declined comment.
Defense attorney Pamela Mackey did not return a call seeking
comment.

Bryant, 25, is charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at
a Colorado resort last June. He has said the two had consensual
sex.

The Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison
or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual
assault. He must appear at hearings in Eagle scheduled for Dec. 19
and Jan. 23.

The ruling came one day after defense attorneys suggested in a
court filing that racism may be behind Bryant's prosecution.

Defense attorney Pamela Mackey asked the judge to help determine
whether sheriff's deputies and prosecution employees ordered
T-shirts depicting the NBA star being hanged.

"The information is sought because it is relevant to show the
bias of the investigating agencies," Mackey wrote, echoing an
accusation she raised in the early days of the case. "Bias is
always relevant."

Officials with the Eagle County sheriff's office have said a
company called hangmantees.com gave the office two black T-shirts
with a Bryant theme on Oct. 9, the first day of Bryant's
preliminary hearing.

One has Bryant's No. 8 on the back with the words, "I'm not a
rapist; I'm just a cheater." The other lists the costs of Bryant's
trip to Eagle County and ends with, "Not bringing your wife to
Colorado with you -- priceless."

Mackey said the shirts have been characterized as racist and
"invocative of Klan lynching." Citing unspecified e-mails between
the sheriff's office and the shirt vendor, she accused the office
of ordering 78 of the shirts for employees and for the district
attorney's office.

Sheriff Joe Hoy said Monday that one of his employees
corresponded with the company using the office e-mail system, but
he would not elaborate. He said the person, who still works for
him, was disciplined and is not involved with the Bryant case.

"There's not any bias in any way, shape or form," Hoy said.

Flannigan said Monday no one in the district attorney's office
had ordered the shirts, but she would not comment on whether the DA
knew who ordered shirts in the sheriff's office.

"We'll deal with it in court," Flannigan said.

In a separate motion, the defense made a formal request for
prosecutors to turn over clothing collected from Bryant and his
accuser for independent DNA testing by one of its experts.