EAGLE, Colo. – Prosecutors suffered another setback Monday in the Kobe Bryant (search) sexual assault case, losing a last-ditch attempt to keep the NBA star's lawyers from telling jurors about the alleged victim's sex life.
Without explanation, the Colorado Supreme Court (search) refused to consider an appeal of a ruling by the trial judge that the woman's sexual conduct around the time of her encounter with Bryant is relevant to the case.
The decision came as Bryant's final pretrial hearing got under way, much of which was held behind closed doors. If the justices had agreed to hear the prosecution appeal, the trial could have been delayed for weeks beyond the scheduled Aug. 27 start date.
Prosecutors filed the appeal two weeks after the judge's ruling. The motion, along with prosecutors' unsuccessful attempt last week to indefinitely delay the trial, had prompted speculation about whether they would drop the case.
District attorney spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said prosecutors still plan to put the Los Angeles Lakers guard on trial.
On Friday, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) denied the request to indefinitely delay the trial. Prosecutors sought the postponement in part because of the accidental release of transcripts from a closed-door hearing, which they called "extremely harmful" to their case.
In the transcripts, a defense witness explained why she believed DNA evidence indicated the alleged victim had sex with another man after her encounter with Bryant but before her hospital exam.
Further complicating prosecutors' task, the 20-year-old accuser filed a civil suit against Bryant in federal court last week. Defense attorney Pamela Mackey (search) said in a court filing the lawsuit had the effect of "exposing her motivation to pursue her false accusation — the hope of a large monetary award."
In a development in the civil case, federal Judge Richard Matsch ordered attorneys for the woman to explain why they should be allowed to go ahead with the lawsuit without publicly disclosing the woman's name. The order followed objections filed by attorneys for news organizations who asked the judge to scrutinize the reasoning behind the request.
Denver attorney Scott Robinson, who has followed the case, said the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeal gave prosecutors a way to dismiss the criminal case without embarrassment.
But a former prosecutor, Norm Early, predicted the trial would begin as scheduled.
"I believe she honestly believes she was sexually assaulted," he said. "She's been through an incredible amount of trauma, and now is the time for Kobe Bryant to feel a little bit of trauma. She's never had her day in court."
Bryant, 25, has acknowledged having sex with the woman at the hotel where she worked last summer, but insists she consented. If convicted of felony sexual assault, Bryant faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.
In a closed hearing Monday, prosecutors were scheduled to ask Ruckriegle to reconsider his decision allowing the defense to tell jurors about money the alleged victim received from a victims compensation fund.
The defense has indicated it plans to tell jurors that the woman was given nearly $20,000, far more than usual, for mental health care and other services.
In open court on Monday, prosecutors suggested they had some concerns about the way DNA evidence was handled. Prosecutor Dana Easter would not elaborate, saying such information should not be made public.