Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Bryant's lawyers attempt to block camera access

AP , EAGLE, COLORADO

Kobe Bryant is due in the courtroom next Wednesday, and if his attorneys have their way there won't be any television cameras broadcasting the proceedings.

Bryant's attorneys on Tuesday asked a judge to reconsider his ruling allowing cameras in the courtroom, saying they were concerned about publicity.

Also Tuesday, Eagle County commissioners gave District Attorney Mark Hurlbert additional money to prosecute the sexual assault case against the Los Angeles Lakers star.

Bryant has said his 19-year-old accuser had sex with him willingly at a resort in nearby Edwards on June 30.

Bryant's attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon, said they weren't given the chance to present arguments before County Judge Fred Gannett issued his ruling on cameras last week.

They also asked for a hearing on how the media should be allowed to cover court proceedings, and asked to present arguments on any future requests for expanded media coverage.

Haddon and Mackey didn't return calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, attorneys for media organizations filed motions to open sealed court records, saying many details have already been publicized, some by Bryant and Hurlbert.

"Ironically, at the same time, both the district attorney and Bryant are opposing the very thing that would permit the public to independently test the veracity of their public relations statements, i.e., unsealing the court file," the attorneys wrote.

County commissioners gave Hurlbert an additional US$105,000 to help handle costs of the case, and left open the possibility of more.

County finance director Mike Roeper said Lake, Summit and Clear Creek counties, which make up the 5th Judicial District along with Eagle County, could be asked to contribute additional money to Hurlbert's budget, which was US$2 million before the extra allocation.

Roeper said it was the first time in his two-and-a-half years in office that a prosecutor has asked for additional funds.

Hurlbert also got some additional expertise -- Ingrid Bakke, head of Boulder County's sex assault and domestic violence unit, is on loan for up to a year to help with the case.

The case against Bryant has put Eagle in a media spotlight. Dozens of reporters are expected for Bryant's initial court appearance on a felony sexual assault charge.

Prosecutors and others have been forced to make changes to accommodate the media.

The Colorado Judicial Branch this week is expected to launch a Web site devoted to the case, its first such effort. The page will have information on hearing schedules, motions rulings and other details.

"I've had 150 calls a day. It's overwhelming," said Krista Flannigan, Hurlbert's spokeswoman. "It seemed like it was going to save a lot of us time."

The door to Hurlbert's office, which had been open to the public, is now locked and posted with a sign saying the office is closed. A phone number is posted for visitors to leave messages.

Gannett and state District Judge Terry Ruckriegle on Tuesday issued a detailed "decorum" order for reporters covering the next Wednesday's hearing.

Reporters will be barred from using cellphones and tape recorders and from interviewing people inside the courthouse.

No photos or video may be taken of witnesses, potential jurors and Bryant's accuser and her family. Courthouse parking will be reserved for people involved in the trial.

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