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Judge Allows Both Sides to View Text Messages

June 18, 2004|Steve Henson

The defense and prosecution will be allowed to view cellphone text messages sent by a former boyfriend of the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of sexual assault, a judge ruled Thursday.

After reviewing the messages supplied to him by AT&T, Judge Terry Ruckriegle determined that they contain information that is relevant to the case. He ordered both sides to keep the contents of the messages confidential for now and gave them five days to file motions.

Legal analysts said Ruckriegle's ruling does not necessarily mean the messages will be admissible at trial. There is little legal precedent in the United States pertaining to text messages, although similar evidence has been admitted in cases in Asia and Europe.

Bryant attorneys have said that in the hours after the alleged rape at a Colorado mountain resort the night of June 30, messages were exchanged between the 19-year-old accuser, her former boyfriend, Matt Herr, and a third person who has not been publicly identified.

Although Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert did not take a position on whether AT&T should turn over the messages, Herr's attorney fought the request at a May 27 hearing.

In a separate filing Thursday, Ruckriegle deferred ruling on whether Jean McAllister is qualified as a rebuttal expert witness for the prosecution. McAllister is executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Bryant's attorneys have said she should be prohibited from testifying because the coalition's public position is designed to undermine the fairness of the proceedings.

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