EAGLE, Colo. – The judge presiding over Kobe Bryant's sexual assault case warned reporters that they may not get a seat in his courtroom if they publish the name or photograph of the basketball star's alleged victim. Critics said the ruling may be unconstitutional.
Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett on Tuesday issued the warning as part of a three-page "decorum" order, outlining the ground rules for media planning to cover the Aug. 6 hearing and future court appearances.
The alleged victim's identity, along with her address and phone number, have also been posted on Web sites. A Los Angeles-based talk show host whose show is heard in 60 cities has used the victim's name on the air.
More than a dozen websites have also wrongly identified another young woman as Bryant's accuser, and on Wednesday, she asked publicly that her name and photograph be removed from the sites.
"It has hurt me as a person," Katie Lovell told ABC's "Good Morning America."
New York lawyer Floyd Abrams (search) — a First Amendment expert who represented The New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case — said the judge's warning about publishing a name or photograph may be unconstitutional.
"That does raise First Amendment issues of the highest order, and I think it is very likely unconstitutional to either limit the press's right to publish the name of the alleged victim, or to punish it by taking away seating privileges if it does so," Abrams told the Rocky Mountain News (search). "The same is true about publishing a photograph of the victim."
The Los Angeles Lakers (search) star has said his 19-year-old accuser had sex with him willingly at a resort in nearby Edwards on June 30.
Under Gannett's order, reporters also will be barred from using cell phones and tape recorders and from interviewing people inside the courthouse. No photos or video may be taken of witnesses, potential jurors and Bryant's accuser and her family.
Gannett, who discussed the order with some reporters after its release, said it was intended to prevent a change of venue by stopping the contamination of the jury pool.
Virtually all American newspapers and news organizations, including The Associated Press, have policies against releasing the identities of sex abuse victims and have not named Bryant's accuser.