Filing counters media requests for initial interview

Originally Published: August 18, 2004
Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. -- Kobe Bryant's attorneys say in a new court filing that statements he made to investigators after he was accused of rape last summer shouldn't be released to the media because it is not yet certain they will be used in his trial.

In a filing made public Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers star's lawyers opposed a news media request to release Bryant's statements and testimony about those statements.

In separate filings, prosecutors said they intend to introduce the statements at the trial but took no position on whether they should be released beforehand.

Attorneys for 12 news organizations asked District Judge Terry Ruckriegle last week to release the statements Bryant made during a roughly 75-minute interview with two Eagle County sheriff's deputies on July 1, 2003, the night after the alleged assault.

One of the deputies captured the interview with a tape recorder in his shirt pocket.

The defense sought to bar the recording as evidence, but Ruckriegle ruled in July that some of Bryant's statements could be used at trial.

During the interview, Bryant explained why he thought his encounter with the woman was consensual, and became upset and occasionally cried, Ruckriegle said in his ruling. He said Bryant did not become "truly upset" until detectives told him they had a warrant to seize evidence and force him to submit to a hospital examination.

Attorneys for the news organizations said information that has been publicly released about the interview suggested Bryant did not say anything incriminating. That suggested that the defense wanted to keep the statement secret to protect Bryant from embarrassment, which they argued was not a valid reason to keep the evidence sealed.

The player, who turns 26 Monday, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000, if convicted. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Aug. 27.

Bryant's lawyers said that news organizations have no right to view or publish potential evidence until it is admitted at trial and that Bryant's privacy and fair-trial rights outweigh the media's First Amendment rights of access to criminal justice records.

The news organizations involved in the request are The Associated Press, ABC, CNN, CBS, the Vail Daily, The Denver Post, Fox News Channel, the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times and USA Today.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press