Time to look in the mirror
The trial judge has threatened to chastize the media for publishing what’s supposed to be secret in the Kobe Bryant case. And then a District Court employee e-mailed secret transcripts to some of the nation’s largest media outlets. The judge and other court officials have righteously admonished the media not to print the name of the young woman who accuses the NBA star of raping her in Cordillera last summer – and then posted her name on its Web site, twice. On Wednesday, the court pulled a double whammy – posting on its Web site for an hour and a half, in an area specifically set up for releasing information to the public, a sealed document containing the woman’s last name. No repectable media outlet has published either the secret transcripts or the young woman’s name. But the media have repeatedly been threatened with a loss of access to the courtroom during the trial by Judge Terry Ruckriegle, should any reporter make public what the court has made public. The Vail Daily has covered the case extensively because it is the local paper of the alleged victim, her family and friends, and because Bryant was arrested in Edwards by the local sheriff and prosecuted by the district attorney, both powerful officials for whom residents vote. The judge should stop criticizing the media for things they haven’t done and turn some of his ire inward. His threats and criticism should be directed at the employees who allowed the woman’s name to pop up on the Internet, again and again. The responsible media have agreed with the court’s reasons for withholding the young woman’s name even after it has been revealed to reporters around the globe by the court itself. Yes, the young woman, now 20, has made serious accusations against Bryant. But they are of the most personal nature and the rare leaking of her name by an unprincipled tabloid, and through the Internet, has caused her trouble enough. Bringing such charges, especially if found to be true, is as difficult as it gets, and the woman does not deserve the extra scrutiny. Even if she is not telling the truth, that’s no reason to reveal her identity – that knowledge is of no benefit to residents of Eagle County, fans of the L.A. Lakers or the world. Assuring rape victims they will not be ridiculed is more important.Court officials explain that each release of the woman’s name was an accident. But the court should have treated her identity with a lot more care – and respect. Despite all of the judge’s threats, the responsible free press has somehow managed not to follow the court’s mistakes. Go figure. M.Z.
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