Defense asks for investigation

Updated: December 19, 2003, 4:52 PM ET
Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. -- In an embarrassing admission, the man prosecuting Kobe Bryant said Friday that someone in his office ordered T-shirts that mock the NBA star, including one carrying the words: "I'm not a rapist; I'm just a cheater."

Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert also said he and fellow Bryant prosecutor Greg Crittenden were each given one of the shirts by "an unknown source."

Hurlbert said he immediately disposed of the shirt and Crittenden did so later. Neither wore the shirt, the prosecutor said in a prepared statement.

Hurlbert said "office support staff" had ordered the shirts without his knowledge or authorization -- something he didn't know in October when his office denied any involvement in ordering the shirts -- and that he had taken unspecified action to "address this matter."

He said no money was paid for the shirts.

The issue came up during a pretrial hearing Friday to determine, among other things, what evidence will be allowed at trial. Defense attorney Pamela Mackey called the shirts inflammatory and derogatory, and asked for an investigation. The judge, however, told prosecutors to supply details to the defense by Jan. 5 -- including who is involved.

Last week, Bryant's attorneys asked the judge to help them find out whether sheriff's deputies or prosecution employees had ordered the shirts, accusing the investigating agencies of bias. Mackey mentioned bias again in open court Friday, but did not elaborate.

Bryant, 25, is charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort last June. He has said the two had consensual sex.

Officials with the Eagle County sheriff's office have said a company called gave the office two black T-shirts with a Bryant theme on Oct. 9, the first day of his preliminary hearing.

One has Bryant's No. 8 on the back with the words, "I'm not a rapist; I'm just a cheater." The other lists the costs of Bryant's trip to Eagle County and ends with, "Not bringing your wife to Colorado with you -- priceless.''

Mackey said the shirts have been characterized as racist and "invocative of Klan lynching."

Hurlbert disagreed.

"The shirts may be inappropriate, but they are certainly not racist," he said in the statement. He called the shirts a "peripheral issue that has diverted attention away from the actual issue of the sexual assault charges."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press