Kobe Bryant Judge Expands Gag Order

Thursday, August 5th 2004, 5:59 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ The judge in the Kobe Bryant case expanded a gag order after lawyers for Bryant's accuser said she would rethink whether to participate in the upcoming criminal trial.

District Judge Terry Ruckriegle issued the sweeping order late Wednesday in response to a motion by the NBA star's lawyers. The defense motion was not released.

The court, Ruckriegle wrote, ``is seriously concerned that the continued public comment of participants in this case will disrupt the process by which a fair trial may be preserved.''

Bryant is accused of raping a hotel worker at a resort near Vail last June. Lawyers for the woman, who is now 20, surprised some legal analysts by appearing on television Wednesday to discuss their client's concerns about the upcoming trial.

John Clune and L. Lin Wood expressed their frustration about court mistakes which hurt their client. The most recent was the release of closed-door hearing transcripts in which a defense expert testified that she believes the woman had sex after her encounter with Bryant but before she underwent a rape exam.

Clune has vehemently denied the expert's claims but has said the original gag order, covering lawyers and law enforcement agents involved in the case, prevents him from offering another explanation for the DNA evidence.

Semen from another man was found on the accuser during the exam but it was not found on Bryant during his exam.

The new order specifically bans eight groups of people from talking about the case in the days leading up to Bryant's trial, which is set to begin Aug. 27.

Those covered by the new order are: prosecutors and their agents, Bryant and his agents, the accuser and her agents, law enforcement and their agents, all witnesses and anyone who attended closed-door hearings. The order also covers anyone who works for any of these people and anyone who shares an office with any of them.

Bryant's lawyers and prosecutors have accused each other of violating the gag order throughout the case. An outside investigation into whether the sheriff's office or prosecutors were leaking information turned up nothing.

Prosecutors also complained about the defense's repeated use of the alleged victim's name during Bryant's preliminary hearing in open court last year. In March, Ruckriegle issued a warning to attorneys reminding them of the gag order. That came two weeks after Clune denied defense claims that the woman had sex with someone else hours after the alleged assault.