Lawyers spar over fair trial
EAGLE – Lawyers for Kobe Bryant and his alleged victim have accused each other in court filings of ignoring their clients’ right to a fair trial. Lawyers for the alleged victim used a court filing Thursday to attack the behavior of a defense witness, whom they say is connected to a Web site that “has done terrible damage to the victim’s right to a fair trial.” Her attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood, also said the gag order in the case – which bars anybody involved in the proceedings from talking to the media – prevents them from defending their client, now 20, against the Web site’s allegations. “Unrebutted, this ‘garbage’ is allowed to be elevated in the mind of the public to the undeserved status of fact,” they wrote in a supplemental objection to the gag order.
Along with the Web site, the purported witness has also given interviews to the New York Post and Court TV. Dave Lugert, an Eagle defense attorney and former prosecutor who has analyzed the case for various media outlets, said this witness may have violated the judge’s gag order. The alleged victim’s attorneys may have used their filing Thursday to bring the witness’s activities to the attention of Judge Terry Ruckriegle, Lugert said. “It sounds like the alleged victim’s attorneys are protecting their flank and making sure the court is aware of anyone who is knowingly violating the gag order and protecting the rights of any parties involved,” Lugert said. “I would imagine the court would address this immediately.” Bryant’s attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, last week requested a gag order on lawyers and others involved in the case. The order was granted the same day Clune and Wood did a round of television interviews criticizing the court’s accidental release of sealed documents and the posting of the alleged victim’s name on a court Web site.
In a documents filed last week and released Thursday afternoon, Haddon and Mackey responded sharply to those who have criticized the gag order, including the alleged victim’s lawyers, the prosecution, the media and Lugert.”Messrs. Clune and Wood’s media campaign and their total disregard of Mr. Bryant’s fundamental right to a fair trial underscore the constitutional necessity” of the gag order, Haddon wrote. “Without it, the trial will rapidly descend into the kind of chaos the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly condemned,” he wrote. But Clune and Wood said their client has a constitutional right to defend herself against negative publicity. “As long as this unconstitutional gag order remains in effect, the terrible damage to the victim’s right to a fair trial, to the victim’s right to due process of law, to the victim’s right to speak and reply, and to the victim’s reputation, increases and becomes irreparable,” they wrote.
Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the employee of the Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. The trial is still scheduled for Aug. 27, pending a request by the prosecution to delay it indefinitely, with the last pretrial hearing scheduled for Monday.If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers guard faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.Despite the bickering among lawyers, Lugert said he has confidence that any Eagle County residents called as jurors in the cases will give both Bryant and his accuser a fair trial. “I am sure the people of Eagle County, including the 999 who have received jury summons, have more than enough good sense to ignore or set aside the extrajudicial attacks against the victim, Mr. Bryant and the court,” Lugert said. “I both hope for and expect a fair trial and level playing field in this case.” The Associated Press contributed to this report. Matt Zalaznick is the assistant editor for local news at the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555 x. 606 or via e-mail at email@example.com. Vail, Colorado