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Graphic Testimony in Bryant Hearing

A detective details the accuser's account of a night that she said began with flirting and ended with rape. The defense counters aggressively.

October 10, 2003|Elliott Teaford, Steve Henson and Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writers

EAGLE, Colo. — A sheriff's detective testified Thursday that the 19-year-old resort worker accusing Kobe Bryant of rape told police that the Laker star placed his arms around her neck and forced her to have sex, despite her protests and tears.

But the woman also told investigators she went willingly to Bryant's room late at night, sneaking through the hotel kitchen to get there. And testimony indicated that there were no bruises or marks on the woman's neck or shoulders a day after the encounter.

Eagle County Sheriff's Det. Doug Winters, questioned during a preliminary hearing, testified that the woman said Bryant repeatedly asked her not to tell anyone and made her promise not to before letting her leave his room June 30 at an Edwards, Colo., resort.

The hearing, which included riveting testimony from Winters and contentious questioning from Bryant attorney Pamela Mackey, lasted more than five hours and ended without a decision on whether Bryant will stand trial on a felony sexual assault charge.

Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett ordered the hearing continued on Wednesday. Bryant, 25, remains free on $25,000 bail. He has denied raping the woman, saying that they had consensual sex.

Bryant's accuser was not in court, leaving Winters to give, in explicit detail, the first public account of the woman's story. The detective was aggressively challenged by Mackey, who was warned by the judge for using the accuser's name in open court.

The hearing was covered by some 300 reporters and camera crews, most of whom were forced to stay outside because the proceeding took place in a small courtroom and was closed to cameras and recording devices.

Many experts were surprised there was any testimony at all, anticipating the defense would waive its right to a hearing and let Bryant plead not guilty at an arraignment. The Laker guard, a five-time NBA All-Star, flew in for the hearing from Hawaii, where the Lakers had ended training camp. He arrived 90 minutes before the hearing with his attorneys, bodyguards and agent. He remained expressionless throughout the proceeding, his eyes locked on Winters, the day's only witness.

Winters testified that the woman told him the encounter began with mutual flirting during a tour of the resort and ended with forced vaginal intercourse while she leaned over a chair. Bryant held her neck throughout the five-minute assault, the woman told Winters.

She told Winters that she broke into tears after twice telling Bryant "in a normal tone" to stop, then became more forceful, grabbing his hands and prying them from her neck. Afterward, the woman cleaned up in the bathroom, promised Bryant not to tell anyone what happened, then ran downstairs to the lobby, meeting a bellman who had seen the pair during the tour of the hotel, the woman told Winters. The bellman, Bobby Pietrack, became the first person to hear the woman's story.

The woman drove home and made her allegations to police the next day. Winters interviewed her for a short time at her parents' Eagle home and later for about an hour at the Eagle County sheriff's office.

Under cross-examination from Bryant attorney Mackey, Winters said he saw no bruises on the woman during the interviews. He also said the woman told a nurse at a Glenwood Springs hospital that evening that Bryant had insisted she kiss his penis before allowing her to leave his hotel room -- something the woman did not tell Winters.

Winters also said DNA tests showed that the woman's blood was found on the inside of Bryant's T-shirt. The detective said she had told him she bled from the assault.

Mackey aggressively challenged Winters' testimony and the physical evidence, which consisted of three photographs presented by Deputy Dist. Atty. Gregory Crittenden. One photograph showed a small bruise on the accuser's left jaw; the others were of what the prosecution said were vaginal injuries from the assault.

Mackey suggested that small scrapes, visible only on a magnified, dye-enhanced photograph, were caused by a speculum during an examination of the woman's genital area by hospital staff.

A short time later, Mackey brought the proceeding to a halt when she asked Winters whether the woman's injuries might also be "consistent with a person who has had sex with three different men in three days."

The judge called for a recess, emptying the courtroom and telling attorneys from both sides to meet him in his chambers. Mackey was scolded earlier by Gannett when she used the accuser's name six times during her cross-examination.

She told the judge she would write herself "a big note" not to use the name again. Countered Gannett: "Or I could get you a big muzzle."

Mackey continued to press the detective, particularly about the absence of bruises anywhere on the woman's body. Winters said he did not even see the bruise on her jaw during his interview with her.

"She talks [about] how Mr. Kobe Bryant grabbed her neck and choked her," Mackey asked Winters. "You looked at her neck to see?"

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