EAGLE, Colo. – The attorney for the woman accusing NBA star Kobe Bryant (search) of rape on Monday urged the judge to stop posting court documents on the Web, saying she and her family are concerned about her safety.
In the first of three hearings scheduled before the Aug. 27 trial, attorney John Clune said mistakes by court staff have put his client in danger. He cited the inadvertent posting of her name in an online document earlier this year and the accidental e-mail of closed-door hearing details to a handful of news organizations last month.
The gaffes have destroyed the faith the woman and her parents had in the justice system, Clune said.
"If they don't trust the system, it undermines their desire to go forward," he said. "She and her family are under the perception that the court won't protect her."
Clune also said two unidentified prosecution witnesses other than his client have received death threats. Bryant's attorney, Hal Haddon, said there have been death threats against potential defense witnesses, too.
District Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) did not immediately respond to the attorney's request.
Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the woman, now 20, at the Vail-area resort where she worked last summer. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.
There have been only a few times the accuser has considered dropping the case, Clune said — times "when somebody who was sworn to protect her made mistakes." He noted the Glenwood Springs hospital that examined the woman also released too many details to attorneys in the case.
Court staff quickly removed the online document with the woman's name and reposted an edited version. As for the e-mailed documents from a closed-door hearing in June, Ruckriegle ordered media organizations, including The Associated Press, not to publish the contents and was backed up Monday by the Colorado Supreme Court. It was unclear whether the media would appeal.
Ruckriegle has already said Bryant's attorneys cannot have access to the woman's medical records — though they can question friends and relatives on the topic — and that prosecutors will be allowed to use Bryant's recorded statements to investigators and some clothes he gave them, including a T-shirt stained with the woman's blood.
The judge has not ruled whether information about the woman's sex life is relevant. The defense wants to argue to the jury that injuries found on the woman could have been caused by sex with someone else in the days surrounding her encounter with Bryant.
Prosecutors and Clune say the woman's sex life is irrelevant to the question of whether she consented to sex with Bryant.
Closed-door arguments were scheduled for later Monday on whether cell-phone messages sent and received by the accuser in the hours after her encounter with Bryant, along with money she received from the state crime victims' compensation program, can be used as evidence.
Bryant's attorneys have suggested the woman received an unusually large amount of money as an incentive to continue participating in the case.
Also Monday, attorneys for Court TV argued in favor of televising the trial. The issue of cameras in the courtroom has presented one of the rare occasions on which the defense, the prosecution and Clune, all agree.
They have argued that photo coverage, especially live television coverage, could influence jurors and prompt witnesses to be less than candid in testimony involving intimate and potentially embarrassing information about Bryant and the accuser.
The decision Monday by the state Supreme Court centered on transcripts from a two-day hearing last month. After they were accidentally e-mailed by a court reporter to seven news organizations, including The Associated Press, the judge quickly issued an order threatening a contempt citation against any news organization that released details. Attorneys for the media groups appealed Ruckriegle's order.
In a 4-3 ruling, the high court acknowledged the order amounts to prior restraint of a free press, which is barred by the Constitution, but said the step was necessary given the context of the Bryant case and the need for privacy in rape cases.
"This prior restraint is necessary to protect against an evil that is great and certain and would result from reportage," the court ruled.
Justice Michael Bender, who wrote the dissent, said it was unfair to hold the media responsible if a court failed to do its job to protect confidential information.
"The power the majority authorizes is the power of the government to censor the media, which is precisely the power the First Amendment forbids," Bender wrote.