(AP) Media organizations have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in their fight to publicize details from closed-door hearings in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case.
Attorneys for the media groups — which include The Associated Press, The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, Fox News, ESPN and the television show “Celebrity Justice” — challenged a trial judge’s ruling, which was upheld this week by the Colorado Supreme Court.
The groups on Wednesday asked the high court to stay that ruling. The filing was confirmed by an AP attorney, Dave Tomlin.
The media groups asked Justice Stephen Breyer to put the ruling on hold pending a formal appeal of the state high court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The First Amendment clash centers on transcripts from a two-day private hearing in June that were accidentally e-mailed to the media groups by a court reporter.
District Judge Terry Ruckriegle quickly issued an order threatening a contempt citation against any news organization that releases details from the hearing, which focused on attempts by Bryant’s attorneys to have his accuser’s sex life and money she received from a state victims’ compensation program introduced as evidence. Those decisions are pending.
In a 4-3 ruling, the state’s high court upheld Ruckriegle’s order — though it acknowledged it amounts to prior restraint, which is barred by the Constitution. The court said such a step was permissible to protect the alleged victim’s privacy rights and Bryant’s right to a fair trial.
Prior restraint, the court added, “is necessary to protect against an evil that is great and certain and would result from reportage.”
Attorneys for the media groups, however, said Ruckriegle’s order “cannot withstand even the most cursory application of well-settled First Amendment principles.”
If the order is not lifted, the media attorneys said, the media and public will “suffer continued and irreparable violation of their fundamental liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
Bryant, 25, is accused of raping a front desk worker at a Vail-area resort last summer. He has pleaded innocent to felony sexual assault, saying he had consensual sex with the woman, now 20.
If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000. His trial begins Aug. 27.