Judge will allow accuser's sex life as evidence in Kobe Bryant case

Friday, July 23rd 2004, 7:34 pm
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ In a huge victory for Kobe Bryant, the judge in the NBA star's sexual assault case ruled Friday that his accuser's sex life during the week of their encounter can be used against her at trial.

District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said details of the woman's sexual activities in the three days before her July 1, 2003, hospital examination are relevant to help determine the cause of her injuries and the source of DNA evidence. He also said the credibility of the accuser was a factor.

Colorado's strict rape-shield law, which generally prevents the sex life of an alleged assault victim from being admitted as evidence, does not apply to all the information Bryant's lawyers want to introduce, the judge said.

He said he was convinced by the defense that ``specific instances of sexual activity'' and evidence of sex can be offered to bolster their contention that her injuries were not caused by Bryant.

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan called it a ``very significant ruling'' and said prosecutors would decide how to proceed after reviewing the decision. The woman's attorney, John Clune, declined comment and defense attorneys did not return a call.

Bryant, 25, faces an Aug. 27 trial on a single charge of felony sexual assault. He has pleaded not guilty, saying he had consensual sex last summer with the woman, then a 19-year-old front desk worker at a Vail-area resort.

If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.

The defense's bid to question the accuser's credibility by bringing up her sex life was considered one of the most important pieces of the upcoming trial.

The defense has suggested the woman had multiple sexual partners in the days surrounding her June 2003 encounter with Bryant, including sex with someone after the alleged attack and before she contacted the authorities. The defense contends injuries found on her during an exam at a hospital could have been caused by someone other than Bryant.

Ruckriegle agreed that the woman's sex life in the 72 hours before the exam was relevant, but barred ``any and all other evidence'' related to her conduct.

Prosecutors could ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision, said Norm Early, a former Denver district attorney familiar with the case. But he said such a request could suggest the prosecution believes the ruling harms their case.

The prosecution can still rely on evidence that includes Bryant's statements to investigators and a T-shirt stained with the woman's blood. Early also said the defense would still have to explain why the woman might have had sex before going to the authorities.

In a separate development, attorneys for the judge said they had asked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to uphold his order barring media organizations from releasing details from a closed-door hearing that were mistakenly e-mailed by a court reporter.

The judge's order, which was upheld this week by the Colorado Supreme Court, threatens The Associated Press and six other news organizations with contempt of court if they publish material from last month's hearing on the woman's sex life and other issues.

The media groups contend the order is an unconstitutional prior restraint of a free press. But the Colorado attorney general's office, representing Ruckriegle, said publication could torpedo the trial.