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Bryant's Lawyers Attack Evidence, Accuser's Story

The woman's account varied, including whether she said 'no,' the investigator testifies.

October 16, 2003|Steve Henson and Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writers

EAGLE, Colo. — The second and final day of Kobe Bryant's preliminary hearing included testimony that raised questions about the strength of the prosecution's case, but the district attorney expressed confidence Wednesday that the Laker star would be ordered to stand trial on a charge of felony sexual assault.

Sheriff's Det. Doug Winters -- the investigator who interviewed Bryant's 19-year-old accuser the day after he is alleged to have raped her at a mountain resort in Edwards, Colo. -- was cross-examined for nearly 2 1/2 hours by defense attorney Pamela Mackey.

*

Included in the testimony:

* The woman did not tell Winters during an initial interview that she had said "no" during five minutes of sexual intercourse with Bryant. In a later interview with Winters, the woman said she did recall having told Bryant "no" several times. In the first interview, the woman said that Bryant had stopped when she resisted.

* The woman showed up for her rape examination less than 24 hours after the encounter with Bryant wearing underwear containing another man's semen. The source of the semen is unclear.

* Pubic hair samples from the woman, Winters said, also turned up hairs from a white person that could not have come from Bryant, who is black.

* The first person the woman met after the alleged assault was the hotel night auditor, not a bellman, as was previously thought. The auditor wrote in a letter to investigators, saying that the woman, as she finished her shift as a front desk clerk, "did not look or sound as if there had been any problem."

*

Winters was the only witness called to testify during about eight hours of testimony over two days.

Mackey's measured tones during Wednesday's cross-examination contrasted with her confrontational style Oct. 9 in the first portion of the hearing, when she brought more than five hours of testimony to an abrupt end by implying that the woman had had sex with two other men in the three days leading up to her encounter with Bryant.

The defense apparently convinced Judge Frederick Gannett in closed session that there was a "good-faith basis" for the comment, because Mackey was allowed to pursue a similar line of questioning Wednesday.

While many legal analysts characterized the day as a good one for the defense, prosecutors said they thought they still had a strong case and hinted that they were saving some evidence for trial.

"No prosecutor puts on his whole case at a preliminary hearing," Eagle County Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert said. "It was not my intent to try this case with the media, but with an Eagle County jury of 12."

Bryant, 25, has been free on $25,000 bail since he was charged on July 18. He faces four years to life in prison if convicted. He has said that he and the woman had consensual sex.

Gannett said he hoped to rule by Monday whether the case will go to trial in District Court.

After presiding over two days of dramatic, often-contentious exchanges between Mackey and deputy Dist. Atty. Gregg Crittenden, the judge rolled his eyes and said before adjourning: "This would gratefully conclude my role in this case."

Legal analysts expect Gannett to order a trial because the standard of proof is low -- the victim's statement that she was raped would probably be enough, one analyst said -- and under Colorado law a judge must view evidence at a preliminary hearing "in the light most favorable to the people."

Crittenden said during his closing argument that ample evidence had been presented to merit a trial. He used as an example blood found on the woman's underwear and blood on the inside of Bryant's T-shirt.

"The defendant met the victim that night and minutes later he sexually penetrated her -- hurt her to the point where she bled," he said. "That is uncontradicted."

Bryant, sitting between Mackey and co-counsel Hal Haddon, reacted with dismay when Crittenden said a bruise on the woman's jaw proved the sex had been forced. The five-time NBA All-Star, wearing a brown corduroy suit, turned to Haddon and shook his head. Otherwise he sat quietly, staring at Winters.

"He held her by the back of the neck with his hand during sexual intercourse," Crittenden said. "He lifted up her skirt. She said 'no.' He pulled down her underpants and she said 'no.' He penetrated her from behind and she cried.

"And he held her. Holding her neck with his right hand, his thumb is going to be on her left jaw."

Crittenden's account was drawn from testimony by Winters last week. That was countered Wednesday as Mackey continued her cross-examination of the detective.

Winters said the woman had told him that she had gone willingly to Bryant's room at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera late at night on June 30, staying after her shift had been supposed to end and then sneaking through the hotel so no one would see her -- out the main entrance as if she were leaving, but then back through the employee entrance, through the employee cafeteria, out a service door, through a hallway and down an elevator, to Bryant's room.

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