Expert: Bryant trial might not begin until after NBA season

Updated: August 13, 2003, 8:10 PM ET

EAGLE, Colo. -- Kobe Bryant's sexual assault trial could begin as early as next spring, but a legal expert says it may not start before the end of the NBA season and playoffs.

A felony case in Colorado can move from arraignment to trial in four months, although most take longer.

"If I was a betting man, and I am, I would wager that this trial would not begin before late June 2004," Denver defense attorney Craig Silverman said Wednesday.

Such a timeline would be similar to that of a murder trial that began Monday in the same Eagle County district court where Bryant could stand trial. Charges in that case were filed more than a year ago.

Bryant attorney Pamela Mackey did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

Bryant, 24, is scheduled to return to Eagle County Court for an Oct. 9 preliminary hearing, the day after the Lakers' second preseason game.

He is accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel worker at a resort in nearby Edwards on June 30. Bryant, who is free on $25,000 bond, has said the two had consensual sex.

Prosecutors use preliminary hearings to try to present enough evidence to convince a judge to order a defendant to stand trial in district court.

If Bryant were ordered to stand trial, his next appearance would be an arraignment in district court, where he would enter a plea and a judge would schedule additional hearings.

Arraignments typically follow preliminary hearings in Colorado by one to two months but can be delayed, said Silverman, also a former prosecutor. There is no minimum amount of time set in state law or court rules for scheduling an arraignment.

Defendants typically are required to enter a plea in person, but judges can allow them to skip the hearing and have defense attorneys enter a plea on their behalf.

After the arraignment, both sides can begin to file motions, asking the judge for rulings on various matters. Some of those requests will require hearings that take additional time.

For example, defense attorneys could ask a judge to move the trial to a different city because of pretrial publicity, or they could waive Bryant's right to a trial within six months of his entering a plea.

Veteran Denver defense attorney Walter Gerash said he consistently tries to delay proceedings. "It gives the defense more time to check out backgrounds of the witnesses," he said.

There are other matters in the Bryant case that could consume time, including an investigation that Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett ordered to determine whether any law enforcement officers have leaked information to reporters in violation of an earlier order.

Bryant's attorneys likely will want the results of that investigation before they believe they can effectively cross-examine detectives in court, Silverman said.

Both sides are likely to hire experts to analyze evidence, and their schedules will have to be considered in setting court dates.

Legal experts said both sides are likely to survey potential jurors in Eagle County to help them pick jurors favorable to their side.

"All of this suggests to me that the trial will not start before the Lakers' season concludes," Silverman said.

The Lakers' final regular-season game is April 14. Playoffs begin in early May and culminate with the finals in mid-June. Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, has said Bryant intends to participate in the Olympics in Athens, which begin Aug. 13.

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On the Net:

http://www.courts.state.co.us/exec/media/eagle/5thpressindex.htm

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