Lawyer for Broncos' Cox waives right to assault-case hearing

DENVER -- Details of sexual-assault allegations against Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox will remain secret, for now.

Cox attorney Harvey A. Steinberg waived his client's right to a preliminary hearing, where investigators present evidence in court, after a judge ruled Thursday that it should be public. Steinberg argued that the public had no constitutional right to court proceedings leading up to trials.

Steve Zansberg, an attorney representing The Associated Press, the Denver Post and The New York Times, disagreed, calling closing such a hearing in Colorado unprecedented, noting that a judge in a sexual-assault case involving Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant didn't approve of a similar request. Charges against Bryant were later dropped.

"There's no reason in logic and in law to treat this case differently ... merely because the defendant is a professional athlete," Zansberg argued in court.

Douglas County Judge Susanna Meissner-Cutler ruled that Steinberg, prosecutors and Craig Silverman, an attorney representing the accuser, didn't sufficiently make their case and ordered the hearing held in public.

Cutler set the case for trial after Steinberg waived the preliminary hearing. Cox will be in court May 16 for a hearing, where he's expected to enter a plea.

After Thursday's hearing, Steinberg said he skipped the preliminary hearing because "it would have been sensationalized and it would have created a situation where I couldn't get a fair jury."

Cox declined to comment after the hearing, saying only: "I'm controlling what I can control."

Most documents in the case have been sealed, including an affidavit containing details of the allegations that led to Cox's arrest Dec. 9, which also is being contested by the media. Prosecutors have asked that the documents remain sealed, partly because Cox is a public figure.

Cox faces one count of sexual assault while the victim was physically helpless and one count of sexual assault while the victim was incapable of determining the nature of the conduct. If convicted, Cox faces between two years to life in prison.

Cox, a fifth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State, started nine games for the Broncos during his rookie season. He was frequently targeted by opposing quarterbacks as he played opposite perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey.

Cox, 24, wasn't the only Broncos player to get into legal trouble this past season. Linebacker D.J. Williams was stripped of his captaincy after his second drunken-driving arrest, and rookie linebacker Kevin Alexander was waived hours after his arrest on a domestic-violence call in December. Prosecutors later dropped domestic-violence charges against Alexander after the woman he was accused of hitting refused to cooperate.

In a January letter to season-ticket holders, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen pledged to restore integrity and a winning culture to a franchise rocked by problems on and off the field.

The Broncos had a tumultuous 2010 campaign, one that also was marred by an embarrassing videotaping scandal and a historic slide, which led to coach Josh McDaniels' firing in December.

After a franchise-worst 4-12 season, Hall of Famer John Elway rejoined the team as its chief football executive, and he hired John Fox as coach.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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