<
>

Haddon calls it a waste of time

DENVER -- Kobe Bryant's defense team ridiculed the prosecution's request for an investigation of media leaks Wednesday, saying even the judge in the Oklahoma City bombing trial considered such a probe a waste of time.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, asked the judge to begin sealing certain
evidence-related requests by attorneys in the sexual assault case
against the NBA star. They contend such details could influence the
jury pool.

The court filings are the latest salvo in what legal experts
expect to be a sharp fight as attorneys try to determine what
evidence will be admitted at Bryant's trial.

State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle has scheduled hearings
Dec. 19 and Jan. 23 to discuss requests by both sides, and he could
make decisions then about the evidence.

In her filing, deputy prosecutor Ingrid Bakke asked the judge to
seal court filings discussing evidence, saying publicity could
influence prospective jurors.

Some of that evidence may not be admitted at trial, Bakke wrote.

"The concern is (prosecutors) don't want the public hearing all
this evidence that might not come before a jury because it does
taint the jury pool," said Karen Steinhauser, a former Denver
prosecutor and visiting professor at the University of Denver
School of Law.

For the same reason, she said, Ruckriegle may end up closing
motions hearings to the public to ensure the alleged victim's
privacy and Bryant's fair-trial rights.

Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to
life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. He is
accused of raping a 19-year-old worker at a Colorado resort where
he stayed June 30.

Bryant has said the two had consensual sex. No trial date has
been set.

The other court filing came from defense attorney Hal Haddon,
who said the judge should deny prosecutors' request for a hearing
to determine who might have leaked information to the media that
another man's semen was found in the accuser's underwear.

Initially, prosecutors said they believed Haddon might have
given that information to a retired judge, who then talked to a
reporter. Prosecutors later said they were not asking for an
investigation specifically of Haddon, but a probe to determine the
source of the leak.

The defense said District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has already had
his own investigator look into the matter and the whole matter
should be handled by the Eagle County judge who presided over the
first phase of the case if it goes that far.

Haddon also said a leaks investigation would "divert attention
and resources from the substantive issues in this case," and cited
a 1996 order by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch of Denver
denying a similar request in the Oklahoma City bombing trial.

"There is little hope that this diversion from the task of
trial preparation would be sufficiently productive to satisfy the
expressed concerns or allay the suspicions raised in these
filings," Matsch wrote.

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined to discuss
Haddon's arguments, saying any such comment would have to be made
before Ruckriegle.

But she denied a statement Haddon made in Wednesday's filing
that Hurlbert had declined to investigate whether leaks came from
the Eagle County sheriff's office because of acrimony between the
two agencies.

"The district attorney never stated that," she said.