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D.A. Opposes Defense Subpoena

Prosecutors in the Bryant case argue that the accuser's presence at a preliminary hearing would result in 'anxiety and intimidation.'

September 11, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Prosecutors want Kobe Bryant's accuser front and center at the preliminary hearing, they just don't want her present.

In a brief filed Wednesday, the Eagle County district attorney's office said it would present a videotape of the woman's statement to investigators and photographs of her injuries. An account of Bryant's interview with investigators also would be included.

What the prosecution does not want is for the alleged victim to have to appear in person. Declaring that testifying would result in "anxiety and intimidation to the victim," the district attorney's office requested that a judge quash a subpoena requiring the 19-year-old Eagle woman to appear at the Oct. 9 preliminary hearing.

Bryant, 25, is charged with sexually assaulting the woman June 30 at an Edwards, Colo., hotel where she worked. He says they had consensual sex. The Laker guard is free on $25,000 bond.

The brief also notes that the woman no longer lives in the four-county 5th Judicial District, which includes Eagle, and that she would have to miss work to testify.

"Requiring her to appear would necessitate a half-day of travel," wrote Ingrid Bakke, a prosecutor on loan from Boulder County for the duration of the Bryant case.

"Calling her as a witness to testify at the hearing only serves the purpose to obtain discovery without legal justification and will result in causing anxiety and intimidation to the victim."

Legal experts believe the subpoena probably will be quashed because sexual assault victims rarely are required to testify at a preliminary hearing. The purpose of the hearing is for a judge to determine whether enough probable cause that the defendant committed the crime exists for the case to proceed to trial.

"The preliminary hearing is not intended to be a mini-trial or to offer the defense an opportunity to effect discovery," Bakke wrote.

Bakke, a sexual assault expert, is working with Eagle County Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert and is expected to make a significant portion of the courtroom arguments should the case go to trial.

Some legal experts believe that unless the accuser is forced to testify, which would give Bryant's attorneys an opportunity to cross-examine her, the defense will waive the preliminary hearing.

Should that occur, the judge would schedule an arraignment at which Bryant would enter a plea. If he pleads not guilty, the next step would to be to set a trial date.

In Colorado, defendants are guaranteed a trial within six months, but Bryant might want to postpone his until the end of the NBA season.

The prosecution plans to have a key investigator in the case, Eagle County Sheriff's Det. Doug Winters, testify at the preliminary hearing. Winters took statements from the accuser and Bryant. In the brief, Bakke asserted that the statements from Bryant and his accuser are similar.

"The defendant will have the opportunity to cross-examine Detective Winters, who obtained the victim's statements [most of which was videotaped and will be played at the hearing], and the defendant's statements, which corroborated much of the victim's account," she wrote.

Winters will explain the significance of the physical injuries to the accuser based on information gained from an interview with Valerie Sievers, a Colorado clinical forensic specialist.

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