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Archive for Saturday, January 24, 2004

Bryant’s attorneys raise race issue

January 24, 2004

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— Kobe Bryant's defense team raised the issue of race in court Friday, saying black men have long been falsely accused of rape by white women.

Attorney Pamela Mackey made the comment during a hearing that will help determine whether the medical history of the woman accusing Bryant of sexual assault can be used against her at trial.

Mackey has previously angered victims' advocates with her attempts to undermine the credibility of the Los Angeles Lakers player's 19-year-old accuser.

Even as defense attorneys pressed for access to the woman's medical history, they also asked the judge to seal a tape of Bryant's police interrogation because he made "intensely personal" statements to detectives.

They did not detail what Bryant said, but argued that his privacy rights should be protected just as much as those of his accuser.

It was Bryant's third appearance before the trial judge. He faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of sexual assault. Bryant, 25, has said he had consensual sex with the employee of a mountain resort last June.

Mackey's remark Friday came during a squabble over the notes of a rape crisis center worker who sat in on a police interview with Bryant's accuser. The defense wants access to the notes.

Inga Causey, attorney for the Resource Center of Eagle County, said releasing more details about the woman would discourage rape victims from coming forward. She said such assault reports dropped in Florida after William Kennedy Smith was acquitted of sexual assault -- a case in which his accuser's medical history was targeted by defense attorneys.

Mackey, however, urged the judge to focus on the Bryant case and avoid the "political agenda of the rape crisis center."

"My client stands accused of a very serious crime. There is lots of history about black men being falsely accused of this crime by white women," Mackey said as several family members of the accuser watched. She did not address the issue further.

It was the first time defense attorneys made such a suggestion in open court, though they raised the idea in a court filing last week. They have also said the woman, who is white, had a "scheme" to falsely accuse Bryant in hopes of winning attention from an ex-boyfriend.

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