New order permits some comments to reporters

EAGLE, Colo. -- The judge in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case has loosened a sweeping gag order after objections from prosecutors, news organizations, a paid legal analyst and attorneys
for the alleged victim.

In a new gag order made public Wednesday, District Judge Terry
Ruckriegle said he still must strictly limit out-of-court comments
by lawyers, law enforcement officers and witnesses involved in the
case to ensure a fair trial.

The new order permits comments to reporters in some
circumstances but still prohibits talking about the character and
credibility of the alleged victim, Bryant or any witness.

Also prohibited are comments about expected testimony, the
possibility of a plea agreement, Bryant's guilt or innocence and
the merits of the evidence.

It replaces an Aug. 4 order that prohibited any comment to
reporters by anybody connected with the case, and by people who
share offices with anybody connected to the case.

That order was requested by the defense after attorneys for the
alleged victim appeared on national television and criticized the
judge for courtroom blunders.

Ruckriegle later exempted David Lugert, an Eagle attorney who
shares an office with the alleged victim's attorney and has served
as a paid legal analyst for some news organizations.

The new order "is intended to restrict the comment of
participants who are in a position to create the greatest potential
for prejudice and also to ensure the participants remain cognizant
of the absolute necessity to preserve a fair trial for both the
defendant and the people," the judge wrote.

Bryant, who turns 26 on Monday, is charged with felony sexual assault. The Los Angeles Lakers star pleaded
not guilty and has said he had consensual sex with a teenage employee
of the Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer.

If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years
to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.

Jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 27.