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Bryant's Initial Interview With Detectives Revealed

Laker star first denied having sex with his accuser, then admitted a consensual encounter that ended when she said 'no,' report shows.

September 17, 2004|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

After initially denying he had sex with the woman accusing him of rape, Kobe Bryant told detectives a day later that there had been a consensual encounter and that he stopped intercourse when the woman said "no," according to a police document made public Thursday.

Bryant was interrogated by two Eagle County, Colo., sheriff's detectives around midnight July 1, 2003, about 24 hours after the alleged rape in a resort hotel room.

An audio recording and transcript of the sealed 75-minute interview were mailed anonymously from Denver to the Vail Daily, which published the transcript Thursday. Portions were first described in a story this week on Sports Illustrated's website.

A temporary restraining order was issued last week by Colorado District Judge Richard Hart prohibiting the release of evidence in the case, but several sources said the transcript appeared accurate. It offers the first description of the incident in Bryant's words.

Under questioning by the detectives, Bryant denied committing sexual assault but acknowledged holding the woman by the neck during their encounter, which prosecutors had contended was evidence of guilt. He said he had used a similar technique during an affair with another woman, and suggested to detectives that they could interview her about it.

A felony sexual assault charge against Bryant was dismissed Sept. 1 when his accuser told prosecutors she was unwilling to testify. Bryant issued a written apology, saying, "I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent to this encounter."

The woman has filed a civil suit and agreed that the apology cannot be used against Bryant, who this summer signed a seven-year contract with the Lakers for $136 million.

Bryant's interview with the detectives was the subject of intense pretrial wrangling and ultimately was deemed to be admissible evidence by trial Judge Terry Ruckriegle.

Experts say Thursday's disclosure helps Bryant if he is under pressure to make a financial settlement in the civil case. The reason, they say, is that the disclosure of embarrassing new details minimizes Bryant's need to pay to keep them private.

"The release of this transcript was a disastrous development for Kobe Bryant's accuser in her quest for money," said Craig Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor and legal analyst. "He just lost a lot of his incentive to pay money to keep this statement out of evidence."

Bryant's attorneys filed a motion Thursday asking that Eagle County Court appoint a special investigator to look into the leak of the transcript. Judge Richard Hart has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 1 to determine whether all sealed evidence in the case should be released.

The interview with detectives Doug Winters and Dan Loya was conducted at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, the resort where the alleged rape occurred June 30, 2003. Bryant underwent knee surgery July 1 in nearby Vail and was on crutches when, according to earlier testimony, he approached the detectives in the resort parking lot, asking, "What's up, fellas?"

Loya was carrying a tape recorder in his shirt pocket. He turned it on, and he and Winters interrogated Bryant in the parking lot and in Bryant's room. No attorney was present.

Bryant at first denied having sex, saying, "If my wife found out that anybody made any type of allegations against me, she would be infuriated."

The detectives told him the woman's medical examination established that intercourse had occurred. They assured him they wouldn't tell his wife, and Bryant said, "This is what I need to know because, uh, I did have sexual intercourse with her."

Loya asked him if it was consensual, and Bryant replied, "It was totally consensual."

Bryant described how, after a quick tour of the hotel grounds, he and the woman began kissing.

"I started caressing her or whatever, and then she puts her hand on my, you know, my thing or whatever, and it kinda goes from there," he said.

Bryant said she willingly bent over a chair, and he demonstrated to the detectives how he held her by the back of the neck.

Loya: "How hard were you holding her?"

Bryant: "I don't know. My hands are strong. I don't know."

When she asked him to stop, Bryant said, "we stopped cold."

Bryant said that a woman named Michelle with whom he had sex frequently could testify that "I do the same thing, I hold her from the back."

His relationship with Michelle had not previously been disclosed.

After intercourse ceased, Bryant asked the alleged victim to perform oral sex and she complied "for like five seconds," he said.

After the encounter ended, the woman asked Bryant for "a couple autographs," he said. At one point in the interview, Bryant said that if the incident became public, "I'll lose my wife ... and all my endorsements."

The conversation returned to his alleged victim as the men walked to Bryant's room. Almost to himself, Bryant said, "She has to have a motive to do this."

Later he said, "She must want money or something. It has to be that, because you guys, I'm telling you, man, I swear on my life, I did not, I did not sexually assault her in no kind of way whatsoever."

Much of Bryant's statement contradicted what the woman told investigators. Winters and Loya did not ask Bryant whether he forcibly tried to keep her from leaving the room, something she said he did.

Bryant said he never told the woman not to tell anybody about the encounter, and said she "didn't cry at all."

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