Legal experts say defense might waive hearing

Updated: October 7, 2003, 11:14 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Authorities are tightening security before NBA superstar Kobe Bryant arrives in Colorado for a hearing many expect his attorneys to waive, clearing the way for a rape trial sometime next year.

Kobe won't play to start
Kobe Bryant, who continues to receive treatment on his surgically repaired right knee, will not play in the Lakers' first two preseason games, the team announced.

The Lakers were scheduled to practice twice Monday in Honolulu. They have games scheduled against the Golden State Warriors early morning ET on Wednesday and Thursday.
-- news services

Dozens of threats against the prosecutor, the judge and Bryant's 19-year-old accuser helped prompt the tougher steps.

There will be armed guards at Thursday's hearing, one courthouse entry will be locked and a metal detector will be set up at the other for only the third time in years, a sheriff's spokeswoman said Monday.

The question is whether there will be a hearing to determine whether the Los Angeles Lakers guard will stand trial.

"If the defense doesn't waive it, what's going to happen is that the public, and of course potential jurors, is going to be left with an image of what happened in that room -- and it's going to be an image that goes unrebutted," said Norm Early, a former Denver district attorney.

"I think it would be very detrimental to Kobe Bryant and I just don't see him risking that kind of exposure."

Prosecutors have said they plan to call a sheriff's detective as a witness to discuss the investigation and conclusions reached by a nurse who examined Bryant's accuser.

Legal experts say the defense will probably waive the hearing because the judge has ruled the woman cannot be forced to testify. The attorneys also might want to avoid any publicity of the evidence.

Bryant still has to appear before Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett to show he is complying with conditions of his $25,000 bond, which require him to appear for each court proceeding. This week, he must return to Colorado from Hawaii, where the Lakers are training.

Bryant, 25, was charged with felony sexual assault after the woman said he attacked her June 30 at the mountain resort where she worked and he was a guest. Bryant has said the two had consensual sex.

Any trial will be handled in state court. If the preliminary hearing goes on as planned, Gannett has been talking with judges in state district court about the possibility of an immediate initial appearance, court administrator Chris Yuhas said.

That means Bryant could enter a plea Thursday and a district judge could set a trial date. Legal experts say the earliest a trial could begin is February or March; it could also be pushed back until next summer, after the NBA season.

Whatever the timeline, the jockeying by attorneys in the case will be fierce.

"There's going to be a paper fight like you've never seen before. The defense will probably file every motion that's ever been filed in any sexual assault case," Early said.

Many of the motions are likely to be similar to ones filed with Gannett, such as requests to throw out defense subpoenas for the woman's medical records or for records from a center for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, said Stan Goldman, a professor at the Loyola of Los Angeles law school.

He said the number of motions filed will give a good indication of how quickly the defense wants the case to move. If Bryant's attorneys file a large number of motions and ask for numerous hearings, it would signal that they want to delay the trial.

Earlier Monday, Gannett ruled that Bryant's attorneys cannot have immediate access to notes taken by a rape crisis center worker during an interview with the alleged victim.

The defense can have training materials from the Resource Center of Eagle County, Gannett said. But their request for notes from the interviews cannot be answered until after a hearing on the matter in state district court.

Attorneys for the woman and for the center say the notes can't be released unless the woman waives her medical privacy rights.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate threats against District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, Sheriff Joseph Hoy and the accuser. The investigation began in July, shortly after Bryant was arrested.

Hurlbert's spokeswoman, Krista Flannigan, declined to comment. Gannett has acknowledged receiving letters containing death threats, and two men have been charged with threatening Bryant's accuser.

Patrick Graber, a 31-year-old Swiss living in California, pleaded innocent Monday in California to a charge of offering to kill the woman for $3 million. An Iowa college student has pleaded innocent to leaving a death threat on her answering machine.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press