Prosecution expected to pursue injuries, inconsistency

Updated: July 31, 2003, 12:13 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The case against Kobe Bryant will focus on injuries suffered by the alleged victim and the prosecution's belief that Bryant intentionally deceived law enforcement officials, sources familiar with the prosecution's case have told ESPN and ABC News.

Those sources claim that Bryant met his alleged victim when she gave him a tour of the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, during which he extended an invitation for the woman to come to his room later that evening, which she accepted.

The 19-year-old woman did go to Bryant's room the night of June 30, where she spent less than half an hour, according to the sources.

ABC News sources claim that the two engaged in some consensual sexual activity in Bryant's room, but that the intercourse that took place was not consensual. Those same sources say that the alleged victim sustained some physical injuries, which Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and his staff will use to prove that the sex was not consensual.

The woman suffered physical trauma in the vaginal area, the Rocky Mountain News reported Thursday, citing law enforcement sources close to the investigation.

According to ESPN's sources, prosecutors also believe that Bryant intentionally deceived police officers and that his statements to them were inconsistent.

The Los Angeles Lakers guard is free on bond pending an Aug. 6 court hearing during which he will be formally advised of the charge against him.

When he filed charges on July 18, prosecutor Mark Hurlbert said he had both physical and testimonial evidence to prove the case. He said Bryant forced the victim into "submission" through physical force but the district attorney refused to disclose other details.

County Judge Frederick Gannett will hear arguments Thursday during a four-hour hearing on whether the records should be made public. He agreed Wednesday to allow cameras in the courtroom for that hearing.

Attorneys for media organizations -- including the Los Angeles Times, Denver Post and NBC -- have argued that many details have been publicized already, some by Bryant and the district attorney. They also contend the public should have the opportunity to determine the veracity of statements made by those involved in the case.

Hurlbert on Wednesday asked the judge to postpone the hearing, saying a 230-page filing from media attorneys he received late Tuesday was "untimely, disorganized and overly lengthy." The judge denied the request.

Hurlbert and defense lawyers want to keep the records sealed, arguing that publicity could affect Bryant's right to a fair trial. Defense attorneys Mackey and Hal Haddon also have asked Gannett to reconsider an earlier order allowing cameras in the courtroom during Bryant's initial appearance.

Gannett has ordered a limit on public comment about the case by attorneys, authorities and others, including Bryant and any witnesses. He said the order was necessary to guarantee a fair trial.

Gannett also warned organizations not to publish or broadcast the name or photograph of any witness, juror, potential juror or the alleged victim and her family on the courthouse grounds. Any organization violating the order could be denied a seat in the courtroom.

Legal experts said some of the sealed documents probably contain information that would not be admissible as evidence and could jeopardize potential jurors' impartiality.

"And frankly, you're dealing with Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant is a celebrity," said New York criminal defense attorney Lawrence Goldman. "The only evidence that's going to come out presumably is going to be negative and will hurt his image personally, commercially and in terms of his stature as one of the great basketball players."

But judges typically have to explain their decisions and have good reasons to keep documents sealed, said Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota.

"Sometimes courts decide to seal everything to be safe, but that's not very sound reasoning from a legal standpoint," said Kirtley, former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "Courts are supposed to be open and the nature of how courts do justice and how they get to the point of doing justice is supposed to be subject to public scrutiny."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE