DENVER – Prosecutors said Monday they still plan to take NBA star Kobe Bryant (search) to trial on a sexual assault charge, despite a judge's decision that could make it harder to win a conviction.
District Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) ruled last week the defense will be able to present details about the sex life of Bryant's accuser to bolster their claim that her injuries could have been caused by sex with someone else. Legal experts called it a key victory for the defense.
"We're still planning on moving forward toward a trial," prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said. She said prosecutors spoke to the 20-year-old alleged victim Friday after the ruling.
"She still has strong resolve to move forward," Flannigan said.
She declined to say whether prosecutors had ruled out a plea bargain. In his decision, Ruckriegle extended the deadline for a plea deal to Wednesday.
The alleged victim's attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood, did not immediately return telephone and e-mail requests for comment. Defense attorneys Pamela Mackey (search) and Hal Haddon had no comment, their law office said.
Bryant, 25, faces a single charge of felony sexual assault stemming from a June 2003 encounter with the woman, then a 19-year-old desk worker at a Vail-area resort. He has pleaded not guilty, saying they had consensual sex.
Bryant's trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 27. If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.
The defense has suggested the woman had multiple sexual partners in the days surrounding her encounter with Bryant, including sex with someone after the alleged attack and before she contacted the authorities. Clune has denied that claim.
Colorado's rape-shield law generally prevents the sex life of an alleged assault victim from being admitted as evidence. But a judge can hear evidence behind closed doors and determine whether the details are relevant.
In his ruling, Ruckriegle said the defense can present evidence about the woman's sexual activities in the three days before a July 1, 2003, hospital exam, saying it is relevant to help determine the cause of her injuries, the source of DNA evidence and her credibility.
Ruckriegle said "specific instances of sexual activity" and evidence of sex can be offered in the Bryant case. His ruling explaining what evidence will be admitted was filed under seal.
The ruling will allow the defense to introduce evidence about the relationships between the alleged victim and the first people she spoke with after her encounter with Bryant. Ruckriegle did not identify them, but two have been identified in previous court filings and hearings as former boyfriend Matt Herr and Bobby Pietrack, a high school classmate and co-worker at the Cordillera resort.
Clune has said the accuser has received hundreds of threatening phone calls and e-mails. The woman's mother also wrote a letter to the judge, pleading with him to move forward with the case so her daughter's life can return to normal.
In May, the accuser herself abruptly appeared at a pretrial hearing -- just the second time she has been in the same courtroom with Bryant.
However, Clune pleaded with the judge last week to stop posting court documents on a state courts Internet site, saying the inadvertent release of the woman's name and other details has put her in danger.
"If they don't trust the system, it undermines their desire to go forward," Clune told the judge. "She and her family are under the perception that the court won't protect her."
Earlier this year, court staff posted and quickly removed an online document with the woman's name in it. Last month, a court reporter accidentally e-mailed transcripts from a closed-door hearing on the woman's sex life to seven media organizations, including The Associated Press.
A court fight over whether the media can publish the details is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. None of the organizations has published the contents.