<
>

Parents of accuser present for apology

EAGLE, Colo. -- Looking directly at the parents of the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape, the judge in the NBA star's sexual assault case apologized Friday for mistakes that have put her name
on the Internet and given the public an inadvertent look at some of the evidence.

District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said he is treating the gaffes
as a learning experience.

"For all of those who come through these doors, victims and
defendants alike, whose names are never known and never sought, I
can only assure you I have learned lessons from these mistakes, and
that we will give our best human effort not to let it happen
again," he said.

Then he looked up at the parents of the 20-year-old accuser and
said, "Again, I apologize." They nodded in response.

The comments came during one of two hearings scheduled before
jury selection begins Aug. 27. The attorneys and Bryant later met
behind closed doors to discuss evidentiary motions.

Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to a felony sexual assault
charge, saying he had consensual sex with the woman, an 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.

John Clune, an attorney for the woman, was not at the hearing
but later said the judge's "self-serving generic apology was
insulting to the victim and her parents."

Clune said Ruckriegle should have personally contacted Bryant's
accuser and her family before giving a public apology in his
courtroom.

The mistakes date back months. In September, the woman's name
was included in a filing on a state courts Web site that was
quickly removed. Last fall, the Glenwood Springs hospital where she
and Bryant were examined accidentally turned over her medical
records to attorneys in the case.

In June, a court reporter accidentally e-mailed transcripts of a
closed hearing to ESPN, The Associated Press and five other news
organizations, revealing details of defense arguments about the
accuser's sexual activities and money received from a victims'
compensation fund. This week, a sealed order by Ruckriegle was
mistakenly posted on the Web site, divulging her name again and
information about DNA evidence collected during Bryant's hospital
exam.

At that point, Clune demanded an apology, saying his client and
her family had lost confidence in the justice system.

State courts spokeswoman Karen Salaz said a letter of apology
was being prepared for the family on behalf of the court staff. The
judge is considering a request by Clune to halt use of the court
Web site and e-mail to distribute information about the case.

Earlier this week, Ruckriegle released a partial, edited copy of
the June 21-22 transcripts accidentally e-mailed to the media. In
it, defense attorneys claimed the woman was pursuing the case in
part because she has received nearly $20,000 from the compensation
fund, most of which compensated her for mental health care.

Clune scoffed at the claim, saying that money was only a
fraction of the amount spent by his client's family since the
charge was filed. He called the suggestion of a financial incentive
"obscene."

Under pressure from the Colorado and U.S. supreme courts,
Ruckriegle said he expects to release edited versions of the entire
June hearing transcripts next week.

Also Friday, the prosecution and defense said they had agreed on
how to use DNA evidence obtained from Bryant during his hospital
exam. Prosecutor Ingrid Bakke later said the only DNA evidence she
plans to use was from the accuser's blood found on Bryant's T-shirt.

The DNA evidence collected from Bryant was thrown out this month
as part of a larger defense request, but his attorneys now want the
exam results admitted because they presumably bolster their
contention the accuser had sex with someone after Bryant and before
she went to the hospital. Her attorney has denied that claim.

Scheduled for discussion Friday were requests by Bryant's
attorneys to keep his tape-recorded statements to investigators
under seal until trial and to limit the prosecution's use of those
statements, and arguments on a prosecution request to limit trial
testimony by two DNA experts. No details of the closed-door session
were released.