updated 3/1/2006 9:18:33 PM ET 2006-03-02T02:18:33

A judge decided Wednesday not to force a woman to watch a videotape of two men having sex with her as a 16-year-old, a key piece of evidence in the trial of a man accused of raping her.

On Tuesday, Cook County Circuit Judge Kerry Kennedy had threatened to charge the Naperville woman with contempt of court for refusing to watch the tape, a move that drew outrage from victims’ groups and Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Kennedy said defense attorneys could cross-examine the woman without her watching the 20-minute video, said Cook County’s State’s Attorney’s spokeswoman Marcy Jensen. Kennedy ruled the tape can be shown after the woman, now 20, has testified and left the courtroom.

Kaethe Morris Hoffer, a private attorney working with the woman, said Kennedy made the about-face after realizing he had “no legs to stand on” legally.

“The right to confront and the right to cross-exam were not even remotely threatened by keeping this particular activity from happening,” Morris Hoffer said.

The confrontation over the tape came during the sexual assault trial of Adrian Missbrenner, 20, one of four men charged in the alleged attack and one of two who was videotaped having sex with the girl, according to prosecutors. He also is charged with child pornography.

Defense attorney Patrick Campanelli asked that the charges against Missbrenner be dropped after the woman refused to view the tape, but Kennedy denied Campanelli’s request Wednesday. Campanelli did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday.

Defendant argues it was consensual
The video in question — recorded in 2002 — reportedly shows two men having sex with her and a third writing obscenities on her legs with a felt-tipped marker. Missbrenner contends the sex was consensual, but prosecutors say the girl had been plied with alcohol.

Blagojevich said he will draft legislation barring rape victims from having to view videotapes or photographs of the crime.

“We want to protect women from having to go through any further acts of cruelty,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The other man accused of having sex with the girl in the video, Burim Berezi, is a fugitive. Authorities say he has fled to Albania.

One man has pleaded guilty to child pornography in the case, and another was acquitted of all charges.

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