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Attorneys for Bryant Subpoena His Accuser

They seek the Colorado woman's presence at the preliminary hearing on Oct. 9, but prosecutors might ask the court to block the move.

September 10, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — Prosecutors are weighing whether to try to block an attempt by Kobe Bryant's defense team to have the woman accusing the Laker guard of sexual assault testify at the preliminary hearing.

Bryant attorneys Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon served the 19-year-old Eagle, Colo., woman with a subpoena, seeking her appearance at the Oct. 9 hearing, when a judge will determine whether enough evidence exists to proceed with a trial.

Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert could ask the court to quash the subpoena, and legal experts believe Judge Frederick Gannett would do so as long as he believes probable cause can be established without her testimony.

"[Prosecutors] don't want to subject her to cross-examination if they don't have to," said Dan Recht, past president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. "In part because it's a traumatic experience and in part because it's strategic. They don't want to subject their star witness to cross-examination before the trial."

The woman says Bryant assaulted her in an Edwards, Colo., hotel room June 30. Bryant, 25, says they had consensual sex. He is free on $25,000 bail.

The defense wants to put the woman on the stand to test her resolve and to get a version of her encounter with Bryant on the record, legal experts said. Discrepancies between her testimony at the preliminary hearing and the trial could be used to attack her credibility.

"The fewer versions that are given, the fewer difficulties you would encounter at a trial," former Denver district attorney Norm Early said. "The only [legitimate] reason for the defense calling a victim is if the victim is recanting the story and they're the only ones who know it. That situation never arises."

It is unclear where the subpoena was served. Marion McDonough, a friend of the accuser's family, said the woman no longer lives with her parents in Eagle. The woman did not return to the college she attended the last school year.

Some legal experts believe the defense might waive the preliminary hearing if the judge does not allow the accuser to testify.

Hurlbert cannot stop the defense from waiving the hearing because he failed to request that the hearing be held within 10 days of Bryant's initial court appearance in August.

"One of the only reasons for the defense to have a preliminary hearing is to get her on the stand," said David Lugert, a former Eagle County deputy district attorney who is in private practice. "Once they know the D.A. is not going to call her, then they can say, 'Why is the D.A. hiding her?' They will win the public opinion battle."

Lugert believes the prosecution could benefit from having her testify.

"Psychologically, the most valuable thing you can do for the victim is to let her stand up and say 'That is the [person] that raped me,' " he said. "She comes in with fire in her eyes, gets rid of the butterflies and lets the defense know she isn't a wallflower. I know many [rape victims] who began their recovery the moment they took the stand at a preliminary hearing."

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Times staff writer Lance Pugmire and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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