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Bryant's Accuser Treated at Facility

November 27, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Kobe Bryant's accuser recently spent time in an Arizona medical treatment facility, and legal experts say it could be another blow to prosecutors' efforts to convict the Laker star on a felony sexual assault charge.

The 19-year-old Eagle, Colo., woman recently completed treatment, sources close to her family said, at a multi-disorder facility specializing in the treatment of trauma and addiction. In addition to drug and alcohol rehabilitation, the facility specializes in treating psychological conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Experts said it is too early to tell whether a stay in a treatment center is relevant to the sexual assault charge or whether the stay would be admissible at trial.

"The bottom line is that prosecutors are left with damage control at a time when they should be preparing for trial," said Larry Pozner, a Denver criminal defense attorney who has followed the case closely.

"This is one more thing to be processed through the motions hearings. I assume the defense will ask, 'Is she addicted to a drug? Is she on medication? Was she on medication at the time' " of her encounter with Bryant?

Bryant is accused of raping the woman at an upscale Edwards, Colo., hotel June 30. He says they had consensual sex.

The woman overdosed on pills twice in the last year -- in February while at college in Greeley, Colo., and in May while living with her parents. She sought counseling in May after a close friend died in an automobile accident and Bryant's attorneys have sought to obtain her medical records from the Eagle County Resource Center.

"If she had been depressed and tried to commit suicide, it would make sense that she would be in a place getting some help," said Karen Steinhauser, a University of Denver law professor. "The fact that someone has had psychological problems doesn't automatically translate into questions about their credibility. It doesn't mean she is not capable of telling the truth about whether she was sexually assaulted."

Motions hearings scheduled Dec. 19 and Jan. 23 will determine how much evidence pertaining to the woman's mental state and sexual history will be admissible.

Experts say that in most cases it is the defense trying to limit the evidence, not the prosecution.

"The simple fact that she is" at a treatment facility "is not necessarily relevant to the charges," Pozner said. "But in light of everything else the defense knows, it could be."

Eagle County Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert has said he knew about the woman's overdoses before he filed charges July 18.

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