DENVER - Prosecutors in the Kobe Bryant case asked the judge to delay his trial indefinitely, saying the accuser has been affected by developments in the case and the release of closed-door testimony has hurt their ability to get a fair jury.
The motion was made public Wednesday but submitted Tuesday, the day the 20-year-old woman who accused the NBA star of sexual assault filed a civil lawsuit seeking monetary damages from him.
In a court filing, prosecutor Dana Easter said the release of the hearing transcript detailing a defense expert's testimony about the accuser's sexual activities was "extremely harmful" to the prosecution's case. She said a strict gag order issued by District Judge Terry Ruckriegle has prevented the prosecution from responding.
There has been "an absence of balance in the information released," Easter wrote. "The release of this information 28 days prior to trial will have the effect of tainting the jury pool and impact the ability of the prosecution to obtain a fair jury at this time."
The defense testimony from the closed hearing that was accidentally released including that of an expert who indicated that the accuser had sex with someone else after her encounter with Bryant but before she was examined at a hospital.
There was no immediate indication whether the judge would hold a hearing on the prosecution motion or when he might rule. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Aug. 27.
Defense attorney Pamela Mackey did not return a call, nor did the accuser's attorneys. Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan refused to comment further, saying the filing spoke for itself.
Bryant 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the woman, then 19, at the Vail-area resort where she worked last summer. The Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000 if convicted.
Sarche reports that prosecutors' motions filed today (Wednesday) allege that transcripts that were mistakenly made public damage the accuser, and a gag order means they can't set the record straight.
The prosecution filing does not mention the civil suit filed in federal court in Denver, which seeks compensatory damages of at least $75,000, with punitive damages to be determined later.
Legal experts said the suit will hurt prosecutors because the defense can argue that the woman is trying for a financial award in a separate proceeding.
"Now all of a sudden it looks like this whole thing was for money. If it's otherwise, then why would she file a civil case?" said Dan Recht, former president of the Colorado Criminal Bar Association. "In my mind, they would never file a civil case without having a strategy of getting the criminal case dismissed."
"If prosecutors are looking for a face-saving way out, this is it," legal analyst Andrew Cohen said of the motion.
Attorneys John Clune and Lin Wood said their client was owed money for pain, "public scorn, hatred and ridicule" she has suffered as a result of the alleged attack last summer. They also accused Bryant of similar misconduct involving other women, but provided no details.
To win a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove only that it is more likely than not harm was caused by the defendant. Prosecutors in a criminal case have to convince jurors beyond a reasonable doubt a defendant committed a crime, a much higher standard of proof.
In the prosecution motion, Easter also said Ruckriegle has not yet ruled whether the defense can present evidence on the woman's mental health and allegations of drug and alcohol use. Prosecutors would need to hire expert witnesses to counter such evidence - a move they don't want to make until there is a ruling because of tight judicial budgets, she said.
As for the accuser, Easter said testimony on the mental health and drug issues "was extremely intrusive and personal."
"Delayed rulings on these two issues have had a substantial impact on the victim's ability to anticipate and prepare her testimony for trial," she said.
The woman's attorneys last week went on national TV to complain about mistakes made by court staff. The accuser's name has been included in filings mistakenly posted on a state court Web site and a court reporter accidentally e-mailed the transcripts of a closed-door hearing on the woman's sexual activities to seven news organizations, which published the details after winning a First Amendment court fight with the judge.