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Archive for Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Attorneys for Bryant accused of smear tactics

October 15, 2003

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— Prosecutors accused Kobe Bryant's attorneys of deliberately smearing the reputation of his accuser Tuesday as they asked a judge to make sure any evidence about her sexual history was heard behind closed doors.

In a sharply worded court filing, prosecutors said defense attorney Pamela Mackey stepped over the line last week when she asked a detective at the preliminary hearing whether injuries to the 19-year-old woman were "consistent with a person who had sex with three different men in three days."

That question prompted Judge Frederick Gannett to end the hearing, which was to resume today. The hearing will determine whether Bryant will stand trial on a sexual assault charge.

Prosecutors said the question was a "deliberate and calculated" attempt to elicit testimony on evidence irrelevant so early in the case and came even though "attorneys are expected to proceed in an ethical manner."

"What was even more unexpected was her conscious misrepresentation of the evidence in order to smear the victim publicly," prosecutor Ingrid Bakke wrote. "The bell cannot be unrung. It will be difficult enough to overcome Ms. Mackey's misstatement of the facts."

Mackey's voicemail said she would not return calls from reporters.

Prosecutors want Gannett to hold discussions about the accuser's sexual history in private, if he determines the evidence is relevant.

Bakke said prosecutors believed that sort of evidence was protected by Colorado's rape shield law, which bars the use of an alleged victim's sexual history in rape cases with few exceptions.

Attorney Tom Kelley, who represents several media organizations, including the Associated Press, said he would fight the prosecution's request for a closed hearing.

"It's not as though a lot of sensitive material has not been presented to the public already, it just happens to be unfavorable to Kobe Bryant," Kelley said. "I don't think the process ought to be about presenting unfavorable information about only one side."

Kelley said he would meet with Gannett and attorneys from both sides before the preliminary hearing resumed. Bryant's attorneys already have asked the judge to close all or part of the hearing.

The hearing began last week with sheriff's Detective Doug Winters describing the alleged assault in graphic detail. He said the woman was flattered by attention from Bryant and agreed to his request to come to his room late one night.

After chatting for a while, they began kissing consensually, but she said no after Bryant grabbed her around the neck, leaned her over a chair and lifted her skirt, according to the testimony. She said no again after Bryant pulled down her underwear before raping her, Winters testified he was told by the accuser. It was Mackey's cross-examination of Winters that prompted the judge to end the hearing.

Legal experts said Gannett might give Mackey a chance behind closed doors to provide information to back up her suggestion the woman had other sexual partners before her June 30 encounter with Bryant. Mackey and defense attorney Hal Haddon also might want to call their own witnesses, which is unusual in preliminary hearings.

"The reason we have a preliminary hearing after all is to give the defense a chance to say, 'This case should not even go to trial, it's so weak,'" said Christopher Mueller, a professor at the University of Colorado law school.

Bryant, free on $25,000 bond, must return to Eagle for the hearing.

The 25-year-old Los Angeles Lakers' guard faces up to life in prison if convicted of the sexual assault charge against him. He has said he and the woman had consensual sex while he stayed at the mountain resort in Edwards where she worked.

The judge has said he would not rule at the close of the hearing on whether the case should go to trial. He plans to issue a written decision later.

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