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Attorneys slam judge over 'one-sided' gag order

DENVER -- Attorneys for the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of
rape have launched a startling attack on the trial judge, accusing
him of trying to protect himself by imposing an unconstitutional
gag order only after their client was "devastated" by some of the
NBA star's evidence.

John Clune and L. Lin Wood said the gag order threatens their
client's reputation and her right to a fair trial of her
allegations.

The filing was released Monday -- the same day state District
Judge Terry Ruckriegle rejected a motion by the prosecution and the
woman's attorneys asking that documents in the case not be posted
on the court's Web site.

In both instances, the release of material from closed-door,
pretrial hearings is the core issue. Clune's and Wood's
scathing motion says the gag order expanded last week by
Ruckriegle lets stand the "devastating, one-sided account" from
closed hearings into whether the alleged victim's sexual history
should be entered as evidence.

Clune and a prosecution spokeswoman declined comment.

The transcripts, accidentally e-mailed to seven media outlets,
focused primarily on a defense expert's opinion that the woman had
sex with someone after Bryant and before her hospital exam and a
defense claim that she is pursuing the case for monetary reasons.

The 25-year-old Los Angeles Lakers superstar has said the
20-year-old woman consented to sex with him last summer at the
Vail-area resort where she worked.

The media, including The Associated Press, challenged
Ruckriegle's order barring publication of the transcripts. Under
pressure from the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruckriegle released edited
versions of the transcripts.

Clune and Wood argued that the gag order, revised last week
after they appeared on national television on Aug. 5, means "only
the rapist's version of events will be disseminated to the media."

"Even Timothy McVeigh had a right to speak. No less right
belongs to a rape victim," the attorneys wrote.

The courts said McVeigh, executed in June 2001 for the Oklahoma
City bombing, could speak with the media to counter negative
publicity about him, Clune and Wood wrote.

The attorneys also argued the gag order is too broad,
unconstitutional and attempts to protect the court from criticism
for its mistakes, including release of the alleged victim's name.

The court is trying to prevent "public comment and criticism
regarding the frequent prejudicial errors by which this court has
permitted the victim's name to be released and her character,
credibility and reputation to be attacked," Clune and Wood wrote.

Former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman, who has been following
the case, described the salvo from the woman's attorneys as
"scapegoating the court."

"The court has made mistakes, but it did not make up this
'devastating' new information about the accuser having sex with Mr.
X," Silverman said.

Silverman said although the expanded gag order, which covers
more people, may have constitutional problems, the motion
lambasting it "has done a masterful job" of deflecting attention
from what was in the transcripts.

Ruckriegle apologized during a July 30 hearing for the
inadvertent release of information. He has ruled, however, that the
woman's sex life in the three days before her July 1, 2003,
hospital exam can be used as evidence because it is relevant to
help determine the cause of her injuries, the source of DNA
evidence and her credibility.

The state's rape shield law prohibits discussion of the alleged
victim's sex life unless it is deemed relevant.

Prosecutors and the woman's attorneys sought to halt posting
court documents on the court Web site. Ruckriegle refused, saying
the court has received 15,674 requests for documents per month
between Sept. 1, 2003, and July 26, 2004 -- an average of 712 per
work day.

"For a small courthouse with a docket crowded with other
matters that also require the clerks' attention, there is simply no
way that the current personnel can handle 712 additional document
requests per day," the judge said.

Eliminating electronic distribution would "result in having to
hire and train 10 new employees at the Eagle courthouse, along with
the attendant leasing of computers, office equipment, office space
and additional copy machines," the judge said.

Bryant is charged with felony sexual assault. If convicted, he
faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on
probation, and a fine up to $750,000. Jury selection begins Aug.
27.

Last week Clune said his client was considering whether to file
a civil suit against Bryant, rather than continue with a criminal
case.