Originally created 01/12/04

Judge gets arguments for closing Bryant-case hearings

DENVER -- There is no way to hold public court hearings on the medical records of Kobe Bryant's alleged sexual assault victim without violating her privacy rights, lawyers for the prosecution and the woman say in court filings.

The NBA star's attorneys want access to the woman's medical records because they contend they will prove that she engaged in a pattern of dangerous acts - including suicide attempts - to gain the attention of her ex-boyfriend.

A Jan. 23 hearing is expected to center on the issue, and media organizations, including The Associated Press, have argued that the public should be allowed at the proceeding.

In filings made public late Friday, prosecutors, a lawyer for the alleged victim and lawyers for a victim's advocacy center said the hearing and the medical records should remain private. They argued that privacy rights regarding medical or mental health records are absolute unless they are waived.

"There is little if any benefit to public access to this proceeding aside from satisfying mere curiosity," wrote John Clune, an attorney for the alleged victim.

Bryant's lawyers contend the 19-year-old woman indirectly waived her medical-record privacy rights by talking to others about her health and treatment. But they also want to block media coverage of the hearing, as well as another scheduled for February that is expected to focus on whether Bryant's statements to police were obtained illegally and therefore inadmissible at trial.

The media attorneys have argued for keeping both hearings open, saying that much of the information already has been published or broadcast, and that hearings can be conducted without releasing sensitive information.

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 has said he had consensual sex with the woman June 30, when he stayed at the mountain resort where she worked. No trial date has been scheduled.

In another filing, prosecutors said Colorado's rape shield law, which generally prevents defense attorneys from bringing up an alleged victim's prior sexual conduct, is constitutional even though it allows such information into a trial if it is determined relevant.

Bryant's lawyers have argued that the shield the law violates a defendant's constitutional right to equal protection, but prosecutor Dana Easter wrote that the law has been upheld in previous rulings.

It was unclear when State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle would hear arguments or rule on the constitutionality of the rape shield law. Two other hearings are scheduled in March.


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