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Jury selection follows three pretrial hearings

EAGLE, Colo. -- With less than six weeks before jury
selection begins in Kobe Bryant's sexual assault trial, only one
major question remains for the judge to answer: whether the accuser's
sex life can be used against her.

District Judge Terry Ruckriegle has already ruled on key
questions about what evidence can be presented to jurors.

He said the NBA star's attorneys cannot have access to the
woman's medical records -- though they can question friends and
relatives on that topic -- and that prosecutors will be allowed to
use Bryant's recorded statements to investigators and some clothes
he gave them.

But Ruckriegle has not yet decided whether the woman's sexual
activities are relevant to the case. The defense wants to argue to
the jury that she had sex with at least one other man in the days
surrounding her encounter with Bryant, and that another man could
have caused injuries found on her during a hospital examination.

Prosecutors and the woman's attorney have argued the information
is irrelevant to the question of whether she consented to sex with
Bryant.

"For the defense, it's going to be a critical linchpin to their
defense, and I'm assuming they're sitting on pins and needles
awaiting that ruling. And I'm assuming for the prosecution as
well," said Denver defense attorney Lisa Wayne, who has handled
numerous sexual assault cases.

The ruling will significantly affect trial strategy and witness
lists for both sides, she said. More than a dozen acquaintances of
the woman have testified in closed hearings as Ruckriegle weighs
his decision.

"If that evidence doesn't come in, that cuts the number of
witnesses in half," Wayne said.

The judge has scheduled three final pretrial hearings before
some 1,000 Eagle County residents are called to fill out
questionnaires that will help prosecutors and defense attorneys
narrow their choices.

A hearing scheduled for Monday will deal largely with peripheral
issues, at least while the public is allowed in the courtroom. The
judge has not yet detailed what will be discussed at hearings
scheduled for July 30 and Aug. 16.

Behind closed doors, however, the judge has scheduled arguments
on whether cell-phone text messages and crime victims' compensation
records can be introduced as evidence.

Bryant's attorneys want to show jurors text messages sent among
the alleged victim, a former boyfriend and an unidentified person
hours after her encounter with the Los Angeles Lakers guard last
summer.

They also want to give the jury information about money she
received from the compensation program. Bryant's attorneys have
suggested the woman received unusually large amounts from a board
appointed by the district attorney as an incentive to continue
participating in the case.

Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He
has said he had consensual sex with the then-19-year-old woman at
the Vail-area resort where she worked. If convicted, he faces four
years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a
fine up to $750,000.

In the public portion of Monday's hearing, attorneys are
scheduled to discuss a prosecution request to delay posting court
filings on the Internet to give the opposing side time for review.
Prosecutors have complained Bryant's attorneys use Internet
postings to let sealed information favorable to Bryant slip into
the public domain.

John Clune, the attorney for the alleged victim, is expected to
try to persuade the judge to halt Internet posting of filings
altogether. He has said mistakes in electronic distribution of
information have breached his client's right to privacy and
endangered her.

In other action, the judge has scheduled arguments on whether to
allow still and video cameras in the courtroom during the trial.
That issue has presented one of the rare occasions on which the
defense, the prosecution and Clune all agree: Cameras should be
barred from what promises to be a high-profile proceeding.

Photo coverage, especially live television coverage, could
influence jurors and prompt witnesses to be less than candid in
testimony involving intimate and potentially embarrassing
information about Bryant and the accuser, they have argued.