DENVER – A judge ruled Thursday that any evidence or testimony about statements Kobe Bryant (search) made to investigators in his sexual assault case will be heard behind closed doors next week.
Discussions of whether the evidence was obtained legally, however, will be open to the public, state District Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) said.
The two-day hearing that begins Monday was scheduled to address a request by Bryant's attorneys to throw out statements the NBA star made to investigators the night he allegedly raped a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort near Vail. The defense also wants to suppress any evidence obtained as a result of the statements.
Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. The Los Angeles Lakers' star says the two had consensual sex.
In his decision, the judge said Bryant's statements include details that are "personal, highly sensitive, clearly irrelevant to this case or subject to a challenge as to relevance." He said the material also could threaten Bryant's right to a fair trial.
Ruckriegle rejected suggestions from attorneys for media organizations, including The Associated Press, that there are other ways to protect Bryant's rights, including extensive questioning of potential jurors.
The judge cited court rulings from around the country that said constitutional guarantees occasionally have to be restricted to other constitutional rights. One ruling concluded the interest of a defendant to a fair trial is paramount and could require limits on free-speech and free-press rights.
Defense attorney Hal Haddon (search) has said Eagle County sheriff's investigators illegally taped statements Bryant made during an interview in his hotel room early July 2. He also has said the investigators obtained evidence through abuse of search warrants.
Sheriff Joseph Hoy has defended his investigators' actions, and District Attorney Mark Hurlbert (search) has said he has no concerns about how the investigation was conducted.
The physical evidence in question includes clothing taken from Bryant and from his hotel room, and evidence obtained during an examination at a hospital.