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Bryant Case File Sealed for Now

Judge temporarily approves a request by Laker star's attorneys to bar public release of data from dismissed criminal proceedings.

September 10, 2004|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — A judge has granted a temporary restraining order to keep sealed information from the Kobe Bryant felony sexual assault case from being released to the public.

Bryant's attorneys requested that the warrant used to arrest the Laker star, statements he gave to investigators and other documents remain under seal. Fifth District Judge Richard Hart said he would make a binding ruling by Sept. 18.

Several media organizations, including The Times, have sought access to the records.

The criminal case against Bryant was dismissed Sept. 1 when his 20-year-old accuser decided not to testify. Jury selection was underway, and opening arguments were expected within days.

"Mr. Bryant at all times maintained his innocence, and specifically denied all allegations that there ever was a sexual assault," attorney Pamela Mackey wrote in the petition. "No member of the public or media should be permitted to manipulate and abuse for salacious and other improper purposes the evidence, audio recordings and other materials in this case."

Bryant issued a written apology to his accuser in exchange for her backing out, attorneys for both sides have said. Her attorneys said the deal had been discussed for several weeks. The woman has filed a civil suit against Bryant in federal court, seeking unspecified damages.

The woman said Bryant raped her June 30, 2003, at a mountain resort near Vail, Colo. He was arrested four days later and faced four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation had he been convicted.

A 75-minute police interview, conducted in the hotel parking lot and in Bryant's room about 24 hours after the alleged rape, was secretly audiotaped by detectives. It became a topic of much pretrial legal wrangling.

Bryant's attorneys said much of the tape was inaudible and sought to have it suppressed, but trial Judge Terry Ruckriegle ruled it admissible.

One of the prosecutors in the case, Dana Easter, said this week in interviews that Bryant stated on tape that he put his hand on the woman's neck while they were having intercourse. Mackey, however, said Bryant emphasized to investigators that the encounter was consensual.

In addition to the warrant and interview, Mackey wants to keep private more than 300 pleadings filed over the last 14 months. Hart prohibited anyone from disclosing sealed items until he made a permanent ruling on the defense request.

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