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The prosecutor Wednesday asked a judge to limit the time and questions that the attorney for an ex-Lincoln police officer can ask of the woman accusing him of sexual assault at a pretrial deposition.

Gregory Cody, 56, is set for trial in June on a charge of first-degree sexual assault of a person mentally or physically incapable of resisting.

But at a hearing Wednesday, Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Amy Goodro said the state's authority for limiting the deposition is the general principle of the rape shield law, which limits evidence at trial.

"The point of it is to save a victim from harassment and humiliation. I think that same principle would apply to a deposition," she said.

Depositions are a chance for attorneys to question witnesses under oath, in this case the accuser, before trial to see what they will say and compare it to other statements they have made.

Goodro said she wasn't suggesting that Cody's attorney, John Ball, would go after the woman in a disrespectful way. It's just that no matter how you ask these questions, they can be embarrassing, she said.

She said Ball indicated the deposition could take several days. Goodro argued that was beyond what was necessary and asked Lancaster County District Judge Kevin McManaman to limit him to four hours of questioning. 

She also asked the judge to limit the topics he can question Cody's accuser about, including anything about past sexual assault reports she's made against people other than Cody, about romantic relationships she had with other officers or about her mental health after Cody's arrest.

Ball argued that four hours was unreasonable given that an entire team of Nebraska State Patrol investigators worked on the case and spent at least 20 hours interviewing the accuser.

He said he hasn't spent one second with her.

As for the proposed limits on what he could question her about, Ball said the bottom line is, the rape shield statute doesn't apply to depositions.

"That applies to trial, what does a jury hear," he said.

Ball said he's never heard of a court requiring a defense attorney, in essence, to give the court a script of its questions, which he argued would be just as fair as requiring Goodro to give him a script of what she planned to ask Cody on cross-examination.

"The bottom line is, a deposition is there for me to discover evidence," he said. "And I can't be hamstrung."

Ball said he also isn't required to give the state a heads-up on how he's going to try the case.

McManaman said, in regard to the length of the deposition, that Ball already was miles ahead of where State Patrol investigators started.

He said he thought seven hours was plenty of time.

"It's a deposition, but it's not a free-for-all," the judge said.

McManaman said he wasn't going to limit the deposition topics Ball could ask about, but he did expect all inquiry to be done "in a careful manner and that the alleged victim be treated with respect at every stage."

On Nov. 8, 2017, the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office filed a warrant for Cody's arrest on the charge for allegedly using his position of authority to coerce a mentally ill woman into a sexual relationship that lasted more than a year.

In a nine-page affidavit, State Patrol investigator Neal Trantham said Cody's accuser, a 30-year-old Lincoln woman, described more than a year's worth of interactions with Cody, including about 50 incidents of sexual encounters that she described as forced, most of which occurred while he was on duty.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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Reporter

Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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