Hearing to focus on accuser's privacy rights

DENVER -- A judge decided Wednesday to close a key part of
this week's hearing in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, saying
arguments over the accuser's medical privacy will bring up details
too sensitive to be heard in open court.

The hearing, scheduled for Friday, centers on the defense team's
claim that the 19-year-old woman gave up her privacy rights by
discussing her medical history with others.

State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said evidence and
testimony expected to be presented Friday would be ``intensely
personal, highly sensitive and potentially embarrassing to the
victim.'' The judge said such details would be disseminated
worldwide because of the intense media interest in the sexual
assault case against the Los Angeles Lakers star.

The question of whether the information will even be used at
trial has not been answered, Ruckriegle said. He has scheduled a
Feb. 2-3 hearing in which attorneys are expected to argue over that

Chris Beall, a Denver attorney who represents media
organizations including The Associated Press, said his clients had
not yet determined whether to ask the state Supreme Court to review
Wednesday's ruling.

Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to
life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. He has
said he had consensual sex with the employee of a mountain resort
where he stayed last summer.

The medical history of Bryant's accuser has become a crucial
issue in the case. The defense, hoping to undermine her
credibility, has suggested she took anti-psychotic medication and
tried to commit suicide in the months before her June 30 encounter
with Bryant.

Among those expected to testify behind closed doors Friday are
the woman's mother, a friend and a former boyfriend, and roommates
from the University of Northern Colorado, Ruckriegle wrote.

Prosecutors and the attorney for the alleged victim had asked
Ruckriegle to close any hearings on her medical records, a stance
Bryant's attorneys did not oppose.

Tom Kelley, an attorney for media organizations that sought to
keep the hearing open, argued that much of the evidence about the
woman's medical history has already been revealed in court filings
or arguments.

The judge, however, said rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and
Colorado Supreme Court have determined that hearings on such
matters should be closed to the public to protect the alleged
victim and the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship.

Other parts of Friday's hearing are expected to remain open.

The judge is expected to hear arguments on whether the records
of a rape crisis center should remain private; an employee sat in
during a police interview of the woman.

The judge is also expected to hear a report from prosecutors
about who ordered or received T-shirts mocking Bryant as a
"cheater" and arguments over the defense's role in evidence