<
>

Expert: Setbacks don't 'bode well'

EAGLE, Colo. -- Kobe Bryant has one more date in court before jury selection begins in his sexual assault trial. Some are
wondering if it will be the last time he steps into a criminal
courtroom.

With the trial less than two weeks away, speculation is mounting
that prosecutors are looking for a way to dismiss the charge after
suffering a series of setbacks.

"We have too many things happening in this case that we just
don't normally have," said Larry Pozner, former president of the
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "The big
picture? None of this bodes well for the prosecution."

People connected with the case are barred from commenting in
detail, but district attorney's spokeswoman Krista Flannigan has
said prosecutors still plan to try Bryant, who acknowledges having
sex with a then 19-year-old hotel employee last summer but insists
she consented.

During a closed-court hearing Monday, prosecutors were scheduled
to ask District Judge Terry Ruckriegle to reconsider his decision
allowing the defense to tell jurors about money the accuser received from a victims' compensation fund.

The defense has indicated it plans to tell jurors that the woman
was given nearly $20,000, far more than usual, for mental health
care and other services. Details of their argument were filed under seal.

The judge's decision could bolster the defense's efforts to
undermine the woman's credibility. Defense attorney Pamela
Mackey said in a filing the woman's decision to sue Bryant last
week in federal civil court had the effect of "exposing her
motivation to pursue her false accusation -- the hope of a large
monetary award."

Among the recent setbacks for prosecutors:

  • In late July, Ruckriegle lost a battle with media attorneys and
    was forced to release transcripts of a closed-door hearing that
    prosecutors called "extremely harmful" to their case. The
    transcripts had mistakenly been e-mailed to a handful of media
    organizations.

    In the transcripts, a defense expert witness explained why she
    believed DNA evidence indicated the alleged victim had sex with
    another man after her encounter with Bryant but before her hospital
    exam the following day. The defense has suggested it would make
    that argument to undermine the accuser's credibility.

    The woman's attorney denied the claim, but prosecutors said
    release of the transcript threw into question whether a fair jury
    could be seated.

  • Soon after the transcript was released, the accuser's
    attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood, appeared on national television
    to criticize courthouse blunders that they said damaged their
    client's faith in the justice system. They questioned whether the
    mistakes -- the e-mailing of the transcripts in June to several news
    organizations, and the posting of the accuser's name on a
    state court Web site -- would prevent a fair hearing of their
    clients' accusation.

  • Last week, the woman's lawyers filed a civil suit against
    Bryant in federal court, seeking unspecified monetary damages.
    Bryant attorney Pamela Mackey said in a court filing that the
    lawsuit had the effect of "exposing her motivation to pursue her
    false accusation -- the hope of a large monetary reward."

  • On Friday, Ruckriegle dealt the prosecution another blow,
    turning down a motion to delay the trial.

    Prosecutors are still waiting to hear from the Colorado Supreme
    Court whether justices will consider their appeal of Ruckriegle's
    ruling allowing Bryant's attorneys to present evidence about the
    woman's sexual activities in the three days surrounding her
    encounter with Bryant.

    Legal experts said the ruling on the woman's mental health
    history could help encourage her to continue participating in the
    criminal case by keeping potentially embarrassing information out
    of public view.

    If convicted, the 25-year-old 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.