Judge: Transcripts could harm Bryant proceedings
Saying a fair trial was at stake, the judge in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case urged the Colorado Supreme Court on Friday to support his order barring the news media from publishing details from a closed-door hearing.”Although on occasion the Supreme Court has held that the freedom of the press outweighs certain specific constitutional rights, never has it been forced to balance the First Amendment against the confluence of rights at stake here,” District Judge Terry Ruckriegle’s attorneys wrote in a 21-page court filing.He cited both Bryant’s right to a fair trial and privacy concerns for the NBA star’s alleged victim.”While it is true that the (news media’s) First Amendment freedoms are extraordinarily powerful, they must not be permitted to overcome these most fundamental of personal rights,” the filing said.Ruckriegle’s response was filed by the state Attorney General’s Office.The high court had asked the judge to explain his threat to hold media organizations in contempt if they publish details from a transcript accidentally sent to seven media organizations last week.The transcripts deal with attempts by Bryant’s attorneys to introduce information about the accuser’s sex life and about money she has received under a state victims’ compensation program.None of the organizations have published the contents. The Supreme Court said Ruckriegle’s order remains in effect until the question of its legality is resolved.The situation, the judge’s filing said, “threatens to impair the integrity of the criminal trial process as a whole.”Prosecutors in the case also argued that the material should be sealed. Bryant’s defense team did not weigh in.Media attorneys have said the judge has no right to stop publication of the material.A court reporter meant to send the transcripts to Ruckriegle, but instead e-mailed them to the media groups. A few hours later, Ruckriegle ordered those groups to destroy their copies, and said if they failed to comply the could be held in contempt of court.Bryant’s trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 27. Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with his alleged victim, now 20.
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