DENVER -- Prosecutors have asked the judge in Kobe Bryant's
sexual assault case to put the trial on hold indefinitely, saying
courthouse gaffes have crippled the chances of seating an unbiased
jury and suggesting the accuser is not ready to testify against the
After the request was made public Wednesday, prosecutors
appealed a key ruling in the case to the Colorado Supreme Court.
The appeal, if accepted, could lead to a weeks-long delay even if
the trial judge denies the request for an indefinite postponement.
Most of the appeal -- arguing that the accuser's sexual
activities should not be admitted as evidence -- was filed under
seal. Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined to comment
Legal experts say the request for a delay could be the first
step toward dropping the case altogether now that the accuser has
sued Bryant in civil court for monetary damages. They said the
civil case will hurt prosecutors because the defense can argue that
the 20-year-old woman is simply after Bryant's money.
"If prosecutors are looking for a face-saving way out, this is
it," legal analyst Andrew Cohen said.
Jury selection in the criminal case is scheduled to begin Aug.
27, little more than two weeks away. It was not known when the
judge might rule on the request.
The legal moves came as the father of Bryant's accuser wrote a
blistering letter to District Judge Terry Ruckriegle saying his
family had "lost trust that we can obtain a fair trial in your
"It has been painfully obvious that you treat the defense as if
they can do no wrong and the prosecution and my daughter's attorney
as if you have something against them or this case," he wrote in a
letter filed with the court on Monday and posted on the Web sites
of the Vail Daily and KUSA-TV on Wednesday.
In a court filing made public Wednesday, prosecutor Dana Easter
said the recent release of closed-door testimony hurt the chances
of getting a fair jury. She also said the judge has not yet decided
whether the woman's mental health and medical history will be
admitted as evidence, leaving prosecutors in limbo on whether to
hire more expert witnesses. Easter also accused defense experts of
waiting too long to turn over DNA test results.
Easter singled out transcripts from a June hearing that were
mistakenly e-mailed to seven news organizations, including The
Associated Press. The media outlets won a court fight with the
judge to publish the details, including a defense expert's
explanation on why she believes the accuser had sex with someone
after her encounter with Bryant and before she was examined at a
hospital -- a claim the woman's attorney has denied.
The widely publicized allegation was "extremely harmful" to
the prosecution's case, Easter said, and Ruckriegle's strict gag order has prevented prosecutors from
"The release of this information 28 days prior to trial will
have the effect of tainting the jury pool and impact the ability of
the prosecution to obtain a fair jury at this time," Easter wrote.
Prosecutors filed their request for a delay on Tuesday, the same
day attorneys for the accuser filed the civil lawsuit against
Bryant in federal court in Denver seeking compensatory damages of
at least $75,000 and unspecified punitive damages.
Attorneys for the accuser and Bryant did not return messages.
Flannigan declined to elaborate on the filing, but said a trial was
"We are still moving forward; nothing has changed," she said.
Prosecutors' appeal to the state Supreme Court challenges
Ruckriegle's decision to allow details from the accuser's sex life
in the three days before her hospital exam to be introduced as
evidence. That decision is expected to allow the defense to argue
she had sex with someone after Bryant but before the exam. The
woman's attorney has denied that claim.
Bryant 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He
has said he had consensual sex with the woman, then 19, at the
Vail-area resort where she worked last summer. The Los Angeles
Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life
on probation if convicted.
Experts said it was unlikely Ruckriegle will agree to a delay at
such late notice. Nearly 1,000 Eagle County residents have been
mailed jury summonses, witnesses from around the country have been
scheduled to testify, and the judge and attorneys on both sides
have cleared their calendars for September, said Craig Silverman, a
former prosecutor following the case.
"It is an incredible logistical task to reschedule all of
this," he said. "What will happen is once the continuance is
denied, I would not be surprised if the prosecution throws up its
hands and says `Well, then, we cannot proceed."'
Larry Pozner, a former president of the National Association of
Criminal Defense Lawyers, called the prosecution's moves "a series
of Hail Mary passes."
"The prosecution is crying, 'It's the judge, it's the clerk,
it's the media, it's the defense,' and the one thing they don't
talk about is it's the facts," Pozner said. "This isn't
particularly about getting out-lawyered. The prosecution ran out of
good facts before the defense ran out of good facts."
The accuser's attorneys last week questioned whether she could
get a fair hearing because of court mistakes, and said her best
chance to air her side of the story could be in civil court. The
woman's name was mistakenly included in filings posted on a state
court Web site even before the court reporter's accidental e-mail
to the media.