Monday, February 16, 2004

Kobe Bryant arrives late to All-Star game 

Kobe Bryant showed up late to the NBA All-Star game Sunday, missing the team photo and arriving a few minutes after the pregame media availability concluded.

"He called after he was supposed to be here saying he was going to be late," NBA spokesman Tim Andree said.

Bryant, a starter for the Western Conference, entered the locker room at 4:30 p.m. PST -- an hour and 20 minutes before tipoff.

His locker was conspicuously empty during the media availability as dozens of reporters awaited his arrival.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Kobe Bryant Wants Statements Thrown Out 

The day after a concierge complained that he raped her, basketball star Kobe Bryant approached detectives staking out his hotel and shook hands with them, leading to a 75-minute interrogation over the accusations, a court heard on Tuesday.

Bryant's lawyers argued in court that a tape recording of the interview should be thrown out because the 25-year-old Los Angeles Lakers guard was never read his rights by the detectives.

Bryant, who missed Monday's hearing before Eagle County district Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle through an unexplained illness, was present for Tuesday's hearing.

The day's first witness, Eagle County sheriff's detective Douglas Winters, spent nearly three hours on the stand answering detailed questions about whether police obtained Bryant's consent to speak with him.

Defense attorney Hal Haddon went to pains to show that police officers were inept and even had to be told by a judge to get a proper warrant to seize several clothing items belonging to Bryant.

Police obtained a warrant to escort Bryant to a hospital to obtain DNA samples like hair and bodily fluids that investigators need for sexual assault cases.

But such a warrant is very specific, ordering police to find the person during the day and not at night as in Bryant's case. Police are also required to take a suspect to the hospital as quickly as possible and not interrogate the him.

Winters said he was unaware of the provision about daytime hours. Former Denver District Attorney Norm Early who is observing the court proceeding told reporters the daytime rule is to ensure people are not roused out of their sleep.

Bryant spoke with police for about 75 minutes after approaching them in the parking lot of the posh Colorado resort hotel where he was staying, saying "what's up fellas?" and shook their hands, Winters said.

Bryant's bodyguard, Los Angeles police officer Troy Laster, left Bryant with the two detectives in the parking lot.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Bryant defense challenges police procedures 

The lead investigator in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case acknowledged Tuesday under defense questioning that the NBA star was subjected to a pre-dawn hospital examination in violation of state law.

At a pretrial hearing, defense attorney Hal Haddon grilled Eagle County sheriff's Detective Doug Winters about police procedure, pointing out state law calls for hair, fibers and other "non-testimonial evidence" to be obtained during daylight hours. The hospital trip was in the middle of the night.

Winters said he didn't know about that rule. He also admitted that when he obtained a court order, a judge had to remind him he needed a second separate search warrant in order to gather Bryant's clothing.

The judge has barred open-court arguments about what Bryant said to investigators July 2, a day after the alleged rape of a 19-year-old Colorado worker at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera.

But Winters provided a tantalizing glimpse inside the 75-minute interview with Bryant and the subsequent trip to the hospital to collect evidence such as hair and fiber samples.

Bryant's attorneys say prosecutors shouldn't be allowed to use the interview because it was secretly taped and Bryant was never read his rights even though he was, in effect, in custody.

They also want evidence obtained that day - including a Bryant T-shirt stained with the accuser's blood - thrown out.

Winters admitted he had signed an investigation document indicating Bryant had been officially detained, which would have required authorities to advise him of his rights to an attorney and to remain silent.

"It's your testimony today that he was not detained?" Haddon asked.

"It's how you perceive it, but there was an incident that occurred in the room," Winters said. He said the incident in Bryant's room led him to take Bryant to the hospital for the exam.

Bryant, his hand heavily taped after an accident in his garage last week, was back in court after missing Monday's hearing with an undisclosed illness.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Kobe Bryant's Lawyers Play Race Card 

Kobe Bryant's attorneys suggested in open court Friday that the Los Angeles Lakers star may have been falsely accused of rape because he is black.

The comment from attorney Pamela Mackey came during a legal squabble over the notes of a rape crisis center worker who sat in on a police interview with Bryant's 19-year-old accuser. The defense wants access to the notes, a request opposed by the crisis center.

Inga Causey, attorney for the Resource Center of Eagle County, said releasing more details about Bryant's accuser would lead to fewer women reporting rapes. She said rape reports dropped in Florida after William Kennedy Smith was acquitted, a case in which his accuser's medical background was targeted by defense attorneys.

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

"There is lots of history about black men being falsely accused of this crime by white women," Mackey said. "I don't think we want to get dragged down into this history any more than we want to get into the history brought up by the rape crisis center."

Until now, defense attorneys had said only that the woman had a "scheme" to falsely accuse Bryant in hopes of winning attention from an ex-boyfriend.

The defense has previously accused the sheriff's office of bias and labeled as racist T-shirts mocking Bryant that were purchased by someone in the district attorney's office.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Bryant Case Voted AP Sports Story of Year 

The young hotel worker's accusation was shocking enough: Thrilled by a chance encounter with a celebrity, she went to his room only to be forced over a chair and sexually assaulted. More startling was the name of the accused: Kobe Bryant.

Even with a trial months away, it became the most-watched case against a celebrity sports figure since O.J. Simpson was charged with murder. It was chosen the story of the year by the newspaper and broadcast members of The Associated Press.

In the AP voting announced Monday, the Bryant saga received 30 first-place votes for 616 points, beating out Lance Armstrong's record-tying fifth straight Tour de France title (19 first-place votes, 540 points), the Florida Marlins' surprising World Series win (12 first-place votes, 536 points) and Annika Sorenstam becoming the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour (seven first-place votes, 473 points).

Ten points were awarded for first place, down to one point for a 10th-place vote.

Rounding out the top 10 were: Ohio State beating Miami in double overtime for the college football national championship; Sammy Sosa caught using a corked bat; steroid scandals; Tampa Bay's Super Bowl win over Oakland; Carmelo Anthony leading Syracuse to its first college basketball national title; and Ben Curtis capturing the British Open in his first appearance at a major.

Exactly what happened behind a locked door at a Colorado resort June 30 probably will be up to a jury to decide next year. But it didn't take long for the accusations to hurt the reputations of Bryant and his accuser.

Reporters and Bryant's supporters and bashers flocked to the small mountain town of Eagle, Colo., over the next few months for a series of court appearances that brought out graphic details of the 19-year-old woman's charges along with revelations about her past.

Kobe Bryant isn't just any basketball player. He's an NBA superstar making millions a year on the court and just as much in endorsements. Advertisers saw him as the next Michael Jordan, and he enjoyed a pristine image as a likable player who was happily married and the father of a baby girl.

A 2002 poll rated him the third-best product endorser in sports, behind Tiger Woods and Jordan.

All that changed overnight when Bryant was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting the hotel worker who checked him into the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the mountains outside Eagle.

The charges were so out of character with Bryant's public image that one noted television interviewer -- and friend of Bryant's -- immediately proclaimed on national TV that he would be "astonished" if the charge were true.

The accuser told police she checked in Bryant -- who had gone to Colorado for arthroscopic surgery on his knee -- and two bodyguards, then showed him to his room. Bryant, she said, told her to return in a few minutes and give him a tour of the resort. She did, and they later began kissing in his room.

The woman said she tried to leave, but Bryant pulled her dress up, forced her over a chair and had sex with her. Afterward, she was told to go clean up, she said, made to perform one final act, and ordered never to tell anyone about what happened.

Bryant held a tearful news conference in Los Angeles to deny the charge, while admitting he had consensual sex with the woman. He held hands with his wife Vanessa, who was given a new $4 million diamond ring after his arrest.

"I'm a human being. I'm a man just like everybody else. I mourn. I cry. Just like everybody else," Bryant said. "And I sit here before you guys embarrassed and ashamed for committing adultery."

It didn't take long for Bryant to understand the seriousness of the charge. He hired two top criminal defense lawyers and soon made his first appearance in the small Eagle courtroom, where a judge informed him he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

As the Lakers began training camp in October in Hawaii, Bryant admitted being distracted and scared about his future.

"Terrified. Not so much for myself but just for what my family's going through," Bryant said. "They had nothing to do with this. But just because their names have been dragged in the mud, I'm scared for them."

Bryant's accuser, meanwhile, must have been scared herself.

She was the target of death threats -- including one left on her home answering machine -- and went into seclusion to get away from the spotlight. At Bryant's first court appearance in August, some of her former high school classmates wore the basketball star's jerseys and called their former classmate a liar.

Things didn't get much better inside the courtroom.

Bryant's defense team went ahead with a preliminary hearing where damaging details of the accuser's story emerged and painted him as an arrogant rapist so caught up in his own celebrity that he had no regard for the woman.

But Bryant's attorneys immediately signaled they were playing hardball themselves, suggesting in court that the woman's injuries were consistent with her having sex with other men in the days leading up to her encounter with Bryant.

And they made sure one more startling revelation came out before the two-day hearing ended -- that the underwear the woman wore to her rape exam had the semen of another man on them.

"She is not worthy of your belief," defense attorney Pamela Mackey told the judge.

A week before the NBA season was to begin, the judge ordered Bryant to stand trial on the sexual assault charge. His season would be interrupted by private jet trips to Eagle for hearings leading up to a trial expected next summer at the earliest.

Though Bryant was greeted by assorted boos on the road, other fans brought signs proclaiming his innocence to games and wore copies of his No. 8 jersey.

The Lakers kept winning on the court Bryant is so familiar with. His fate is still uncertain in a court he becomes more familiar with every day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Kobe Bryant's Accusser Checks into Medical Center 

The woman accusing Kobe Bryant of sexual assault checked into a medical treatment center to help her escape relentless media and threats, the Vail Daily reported Wednesday.

The 19-year-old woman's family made the decision at some point after the alleged assault at the resort hotel where she worked and where Bryant stayed June 30, the newspaper reported, citing anonymous sources.

The report did not say when she checked into the center and what kind of treatment was sought.

John Clune, the woman's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined to comment, but said prosecutors were not concerned about such reports influencing potential jurors.

"We believe that we have an intelligent jury pool in Eagle County and everything at this point is all allegations," she said. "We believe the jury's going to wait until they hear the actual facts in the trial."

Bryant, 25, is accused of assaulting the woman in his hotel room. Free on $25,000 bond, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted. He has said the two had consensual sex.

Friends have said the woman has been treated twice in the past year after attempting suicide: Once in February, when she was a student at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and again in May when she was living in Eagle.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Kobe HIV test wanted 

ESPN.com - NBA - Report: Kobe HIV test wanted

Prosecutors in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case have filed a motion asking a judge to order the NBA star undergo testing for the virus that causes AIDS, a television station reported.

The motion was filed under seal and the judge has not ruled, KCNC-TV in Denver reported Tuesday night, citing unnamed sources.

Neither the district attorney's spokeswoman nor Bryant's attorney returned telephone messages from The Associated Press late Tuesday.

Bryant, 25, is accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman on June 30 at an Edwards hotel where she worked and he was a guest. He has said they had consensual sex.

Colorado law requires anyone charged with a crime involving sexual penetration to be tested for HIV if the suspect is ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing.

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, causes AIDS.

Bryant has been ordered to stand trial on a charge of sexual assault. He faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted.

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