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First Amendment at issue

Bryant case judge may release details of closed hearing

DENVER -- The judge in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault trial indicated yesterday that he wants to settle a First Amendment fight with the media by releasing at least some details from a closed-door hearing on the accuser's sex life and other potential evidence.

Prodded by the US Supreme Court, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers to work together on proposed deletions in transcripts from the June 21-22 hearing. He asked to have an edited copy and the lawyers' reasons for keeping anything sealed by late yesterday afternoon.

The judge did not indicate whether or when he might release details from the hearing.

The transcripts were mistakenly e-mailed to the Associated Press and six other news organizations by a court reporter last month, prompting a contempt of court threat from the judge for anyone who released the details.

No organization has published the contents, but the media groups challenged Ruckriegle's order as an unconstitutional restraint on a free press. Late Monday, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer rejected a media request to overturn the order, but said the situation could be resolved by releasing the transcripts.

"We're happy that there's movement toward releasing some of the material -- we don't know how much -- but we believe there's still a vital principle at stake that isn't addressed by this 'solution,' " said Kristin Gazlay, the AP's deputy managing editor for national news.

The documents were also mistakenly sent to The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, Fox News, ESPN, and the television show "Celebrity Justice."

Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the woman, then 19, at a Vail-area resort where she worked and he was a guest. If convicted, the NBA star could face four years to life in prison and a fine up to $750,000.

The accuser's lawyers, Lin Wood and John Clune, were not available to comment..

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