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Wednesday, March 12
Updated: March 13, 4:11 PM ET
Prosecutors: Defense trying to smear accuser

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Twins star Kirby Puckett's upcoming trial on assault charges can include testimony that his accuser exposed her breasts before the alleged assault, a Hennepin County judge ruled Wednesday.

But District Judge Stephen Swanson said he would not allow testimony that the woman was drunk.

The woman claims Puckett dragged her into a bathroom at Redstone American Grill in Eden Prairie Sept. 6 and groped her. A criminal complaint said she had bruises on her ankle, arm and breast.

Puckett's attorneys want to present testimony from two men who were in the bar on Sept. 6 that might show that Puckett's accuser bruised her own breast, as well as testimony that she was drunk and unruly that night. One of the men testified that the woman grabbed his buttocks. The woman testified that she was not drunk.

Prosecutors say the defense is trying to smear Puckett's accuser. And state law usually bars testimony about prior sexual acts by victims as irrelevant to the question of whether they were assaulted, and because of the danger that they would prejudice jurors.

But Swanson ruled that Puckett's right to a defense outweighs the concern that the testimony might prejudice a jury. The defense contention that the alleged victim bruised herself ``is directly relevant to the question of the source of the alleged bruise,'' Swanson wrote.

Swanson also wrote that he will allow a defense expert to testify about the claim that the alleged victim bruised herself.

However, Swanson barred the other testimony about the woman's behavior that night, including allegations that she was drunk and grabbed one of the men's buttocks. Swanson noted that her contact with the two men happened about two hours before the alleged incident with Puckett.

Focusing on the testimony that Swanson barred, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Al Harris said he was pleased with the ruling.

"The defense sought to introduce allegations to attack and defame the victim in this case. The victim vigorously denies these allegations. The judge has agreed with us that these allegations are not relevant or admissible, except for one very narrow exception. We continue to expect to resolve this case at trial," Harris said.

Chris Madel, an attorney for Puckett, said the defense didn't have a strategy of defaming Puckett's accuser, and said he was satisfied with Wednesday's ruling.

"The very first thing I argued at the hearing and the first thing I put in our brief was that the alleged victim's exposure of her breast provided an alternate source of injury, and that evidence is coming in" at trial, he said.

Puckett is charged with false imprisonment and criminal sexual conduct. His trial is scheduled to start with jury selection March 24.

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