Prosecutors, accuser seek open rebuttal

Updated: August 13, 2004, 11:34 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Prosecutors and the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape are asking the judge to ease a gag order so they can respond to widely publicized evidence they say is favorable to the NBA star.

The woman's attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood, said in a court filing Thursday the order prohibits them from responding to claims made by a defense witness who for months has distributed derogatory information about their client on the Internet.

"Unrebutted, this 'garbage' is allowed to be elevated in the mind of the public to the undeserved status of fact," they wrote.

Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the employee of the Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. The trial begins Aug. 27, with the last pretrial hearing scheduled for Monday.

If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers guard faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.

Earlier this month, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle broadened his gag order to prohibit all lawyers, witnesses and others connected to the case from talking to reporters about the case.

Bryant's attorneys asked for the order after the judge released an edited transcript of a closed-door hearing in which an expert witness for the defense explained why she believes the alleged victim had sex with somebody within 15 hours after her encounter with Bryant.

Clune has denied that claim. He and Wood appeared on national television last week to criticize the judge and the court for gaffes that led to the release of the transcript and the accidental posting of their client's name on a state court Web site.

The attorneys also said in a court filing the gag order must be eased so they can respond to "that devastating, one-sided account" of evidence contained in the transcript.

"As long as this unconstitutional gag order remains in effect, the terrible damage to the victim's right to a fair trial, to the victim's right to due process of law, to the victim's right to speak and reply, and to the victim's reputation, becomes irreparable," they wrote.

The accuser's father criticized the judge and the gag order in a letter last week.

"Recently, my daughter's attorney has tried to minimize the harmful impact of your mistakes by speaking out on television for the first time," he wrote. "Your latest order prohibiting anyone from speaking out to help my daughter tells me that you wish to see the harmful effects of the court's errors continue. My family and I have lost trust that we can obtain a fair trial in your court."

Defense attorneys have asked the judge to keep the order in place, saying the accuser's attorneys must be prevented from repeating "inflammatory" comments that threaten the chances for a fair trial.

"Without [the order], the trial will rapidly descend into the kind of chaos the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly condemned," defense attorney Hal Haddon wrote.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press