Trial or no? Judge hopes to rule Monday

EAGLE, Colo. -- The prosecution insisted that "uncontradicted"
evidence proved that Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant had
raped a young hotel worker and should be bound over for trial.

The defense said the "compelling evidence" was that Bryant was
innocent, that the prosecution had utterly failed in its bid to
establish the threshold for trial.

Bryant's preliminary hearing drew to a close Wednesday with
dramatic revelations that appeared to cast doubt on the prosecution's
case. Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett said he will attempt to
determine by Monday whether the case will proceed to trial.

With day two of the hearing given over to cross-examination of the
sole prosecution witness, Eagle County Det. Doug Winters, Bryant
attorney Pamela Mackey methodically elicited answer after answer in
casting shadows on the 19-year-old woman's credibility.

Among the points registered by Mackey, all in cross-examination of

  • The young woman wore underwear containing semen and sperm not
    belonging to Bryant when she went to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood
    Springs the day after the alleged assault to be examined by nurses
    trained in rape evidence collection.

  • That in his interview with the alleged victim, Winters said
    Wednesday, "I asked her the question, why she had never told him
    'No'?" During last Thursday's testimony, Winters testified that the
    woman had told Bryant no more than once.

  • Winters agreed that the hotel's night auditor -- whose presence
    didn't come up in the first day of the hearing last Thursday -- had
    said nothing appeared amiss with his co-worker when she returned from
    her encounter with Bryant to calmly finish out her shift.

    Deputy district attorney Gregory Crittenden urged Gannett to ignore
    the line of questioning, and focus solely on Bryant's alleged actions.

    "The defendant hurt the victim that night, and minutes later he
    sexually penetrated her, hurting her to the point that she bled,"
    Crittenden said.

    "He forcefully sexually penetrated her, and the court has evidence
    of that."

    And, Crittenden said, "There was blood on her underwear from that
    night. And there is her blood, on his shirt, from that night."

    Moments before, defense lawyer Mackey tried to convince Gannett
    that Bryant's case should not be sent to district court for trial.

    "Our heartfelt belief here is that the prosecution has failed in
    its burden," said Mackey, who said the state had presented "an
    extremely thin case based almost entirely on hearsay."

    Of the woman Bryant is accused of attacking, a former Eagle Valley
    cheerleader with one year as a student at the University of Northern
    Colorado to her credit, Mackey said: "She is not worthy of your

    The rules of evidence are far more relaxed in preliminary hearings
    than at the trial stage; hearsay evidence is admissible, and Eagle
    County prosecutors employed it liberally in presenting its case
    through Winters on Thursday.

    He offered the statement of Bryant's 19-year-old alleged victim,
    and the analysis of her injuries by a rape nurse examiner.

    Mackey, in her final argument, reminded Gannett he had "warned the
    prosecution in this case not to put the court in the position of
    having to decide the case based entirely on hearsay, and that is
    precisely what they have done."

    When the hearing concluded just 10 minutes after both sides had
    returned from a lunch break, Gannett expressed his appreciation to the
    lawyers for the way they'd conducted themselves, "despite the ugly
    nature of this case."

    Bryant made a quick exit from the justice center as soon as court
    was adjourned.

    He is free on a $25,000 bond, and with his Lakers two weeks into
    preseason training, it's the second time he has been forced to leave
    his teammates and return to Eagle.

    Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, elected last
    December, 34 years old and already handling what could well be the
    case of his career, faced dozens of media members for a few moments at
    the hearing's conclusion, limiting most of his comments to clarifying
    legal procedure.

    Declining to discuss specific points of evidence, Hurlbert said,
    "No prosecutor does his whole case at preliminary hearing." And, he
    referred to the Bryant proceedings as a "sanitized version" of the

    For example, certain evidence, such as all testimony about an
    audio-taped interview of detectives' initial questioning of Bryant by
    hidden microphone the night of July 1, was presented to Gannett in his
    private chambers, and never heard by those in court.

    "It is not my intent to try this case to the media," said
    Hurlbert, "but to an Eagle County jury of 12."

    Mackey started afresh Wednesday with questions concerning the
    alleged victim's recent sexual history, after such questions quickly
    brought a halt to the opening day of the hearing.

    But she appeared intent on honoring Gannett's instructions to
    lawyers to "exercise some level of restraint" on the issue.

    Mackey elicited the information that the young woman had had sex
    with an unidentified man shortly before the night of June 30, the
    night the woman said Bryant assaulted her, the night Bryant agrees
    that they did have sex, but that it was consensual.
    Under Mackey's restrained cross-examination, Winters also admitted
    that blood, plus semen and sperm not belonging to Bryant were found in
    the yellow knit panties the alleged victim wore to the Valley View
    Hospital in Glenwood Springs the day after the alleged assault to be

    That underwear is not the same which the young woman wore June 30,
    the night of the alleged assault; but investigators have said those
    undergarments were marked by blood, as well.

    Winters also testified that pubic hair from a Caucasian source was
    found in the underwear the woman wore to the hospital. He admitted
    that tests have not yet been conducted to determine the origins of the
    DNA in that undergarment.

    Speaking of those hairs, Winters said, "It could belong to her. It
    could belong to someone else. I don't know."

    Mackey asked him, "You know that there are other swabs (in
    evidence) containing sperm and semen that have not been tested.
    Correct?" True, Winters conceded.

    The presence of such evidence on the alleged victim or her
    belongings is important to Bryant's defense team, because it is their
    contention that such material, plus the multiple small lacerations in
    her vaginal area may be consistent not with forced sexual
    presentation, but what they referred to in a motion filed Tuesday as
    "multiple and recent sexual encounters."

    Mackey, through Wednesday's cross-examination of Winters,
    established that the detective's interview of the alleged victim left
    him wondering why she had not said "no" to Bryant more forcefully or
    clearly, after he allegedly started groping her as they started to hug
    and kiss in his room.

    The two had ended up there after she agreed to give Bryant a tour
    of the 56-room resort, where only four rooms were occupied at the

    "I asked her the question, why she had never told him 'No'?" said

    Last week, Winters testified that the young woman has said no to
    Bryant at least twice.

    Prosecutor Crittenden rose to object, questioning the question's

    Bryant lowered his head and shook it noticeably, in seeming

    At the conclusion of Wednesday's hearing, Winters also stood
    outside the justice center and answered a few questions from the

    "I feel at this time it is complete and thorough," the detective
    said of the Bryant investigation.

    Asked if there was anything he wished he had done differently, he
    dodged specifics, saying only, "No case is going to be perfect, the
    first time around."

    This story appeared in the Rocky Mountain News.