Judge feels cameras will not impact fairness

Updated: August 4, 2003, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. -- The judge in the Kobe Bryant case Monday rejected the NBA star's request to keep cameras out of the courtroom during his first court appearance on a sexual assault charge.

Bryant's attorneys argued against allowing cameras during the hearing scheduled Wednesday, saying they could jeopardize Bryant's right to a fair trial.

Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett ruled that was unlikely.

"Defendant's objections are general in nature and do not allege any specific prejudice which may result from expanded media coverage," the judge wrote.

Gannett said he will release one brief submitted by the prosecutor in response to a media request to unseal all court documents, according to Chris Beall, a Denver attorney representing some media groups.

Prosecutors and attorneys for media organizations advised Gannett on what information to omit from the document to protect the privacy of the alleged victim and the witnesses.

Bryant is charged with felony sexual assault against a 19-year-old woman on June 30 at a mountain resort. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar said the sex was consensual and that he was guilty only of adultery.

At Wednesday's hearing, Gannett will advise Bryant of the charge against him, of his rights and of the possible penalty. His order said there would be no discussions of evidence or fact-finding.

The brief, written by District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, is in response to a request from media organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, NBC and CNN, to open the records to public review.

Hurlbert's spokeswoman, Krista Flannigan, said attorneys for both sides often work together to compromise on what type of information will remain sealed.

In a brief made public Monday, media attorneys agreed to omit specific information that could identify the alleged victim. They asked the judge to release information that was discussed during last week's hearing, or had been disseminated on the Internet.

Hurlbert asked in his filing that other portions of the records be redacted. He identified them by sentence and paragraph, but did not elaborate on the type of information they contained.

Also Monday, Gannett denied Bryant's motion asking that media coverage requests be submitted at least 30 days before a proceeding. Instead, he gave media organizations seven days to submit coverage requests for hearings scheduled with at least 20 days' notice.

Bryant's hearing will be in a courtroom with 68 seats, far fewer than what can accommodate the vast number of reporters covering the case. An overflow tent has been set up outside to accommodate the rest of the media.

Anyone attending the hearing must pass through a metal detector, which can detect the cell phones and tape recorders barred by the judge. The other two courtrooms in the building will be empty by the time Bryant arrives.

Bryant hasn't requested an official escort from the Vail airport, about six miles west of the courthouse, Eagle County Undersheriff Ken Wilson said.

"It's going to be a challenge," he said. "We've never had anything in Eagle County this big."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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