Looking directly at the parents of the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape, the judge in the basketball player's sexual assault case apologized Friday for mistakes that have put her name on the Internet and given the public an inadvertent look at some of the evidence.
State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said he is treating the gaffes as a learning experience. "For all of those who come through these doors, victims and defendants alike, whose names are never known and never sought, I can only assure you I have learned lessons from these mistakes, and that we will give our best human effort not to let it happen again," he said.
Then he looked up at the parents of the 20-year-old accuser and said, "Again, I apologize." They nodded in response.
The comments came during one of two hearings scheduled before jury selection begins Aug. 27. The lawyers and Bryant later met behind closed doors to discuss evidentiary motions.
Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to a felony sexual assault charge, saying he had consensual sex with the woman, an employee of the Vail area resort where he stayed last summer. If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers player faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.
John Clune, an attorney for the woman, was not at the hearing but later said the judge's "self-serving generic apology was insulting to the victim and her parents."
Clune said Ruckriegle should have personally contacted Bryant's accuser before giving a public apology in his courtroom.
In September, the woman's name was included in a filing on a state courts Web site that was quickly removed. Last fall, the Glenwood Springs hospital where she and Bryant were examined accidentally turned over her medical records to lawyers in the case.
In June, a court reporter accidentally e-mailed transcripts of a closed hearing to seven news organizations, revealing details of defense arguments about the accuser's sexual activities and money received from a victims' compensation fund. This week, a sealed order by Ruckriegle was mistakenly posted on the Web site, divulging her name again and information about DNA evidence collected during Bryant's hospital exam.
At that point, Clune demanded an apology.
State courts spokeswoman Karen Salaz said a letter of apology was being prepared for the family on behalf of the court staff. The judge is considering a request by Clune to halt use of the court Web site and e-mail to distribute information about the case.
Also Friday, the prosecution and defense said they had agreed on how to use DNA evidence obtained from Bryant during his hospital exam. Prosecutor Ingrid Bakke later said the only DNA evidence she plans to use was from the alleged victim's blood found on Bryant's T-shirt.
The DNA evidence collected from Bryant was thrown out this month as part of a larger defense request, but his attorneys now want the exam results admitted because they presumably bolster their contention the accuser had sex with someone after Bryant and before she went to the hospital. Her attorney has denied that claim.