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Ruling on Bryant sex assault case delayed

Decision about trial will be announced next week

From Gary Tuchman
CNN

Kobe Bryant leaves the Eagle County courthouse Wednesday.
Kobe Bryant leaves the Eagle County courthouse Wednesday.

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Eagle County D.A. Mark Hurlbert comments on the preliminary hearing.
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CNN's Gary Tuchman reports on the case against Kobe Bryant.
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EAGLE, Colorado (CNN) -- A Colorado judge will decide next week whether basketball superstar Kobe Bryant should stand trial on a sexual assault charge after Bryant's lawyers raised questions about the alleged victim's sexual history in a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Defense lawyers argued in court papers that they have "compelling evidence" of Bryant's innocence, and spent about two hours Wednesday cross-examining a detective who investigated the case.

But Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said judges require only a "very low standard" to move the case forward.

"I am confident the judge will find probable cause and will bind this case over, and I am confident in the people's case versus Kobe Bryant," Hurlbert said told reporters.

Judge Frederick Gannett said he would issue a ruling no earlier than Monday.

The two-day preliminary hearing was interrupted last week after Bryant's lawyer, Pamela Mackey, suggested the alleged victim's injuries were consistent with having sex with three men in three days.

Doug Winters, an Eagle County sheriff's detective, testified the underwear the woman wore to a hospital the day she went to police contained DNA material that came from someone other than Bryant.

He said the alleged victim told him she had sex with a different man three days before the day she alleges Bryant raped her.

Winters said none of Bryant's clothes had any rips or tears, and investigators found no marks on Bryant that would indicate someone had resisted a sexual assault. But Hurlbert said the woman had a bruise on her jaw from Bryant's thumb.

The defense also introduced evidence about a letter from a co-worker of the alleged victim, who in a written statement said that after the alleged attack, when the woman returned to her post as a concierge at the hotel where Bryant was staying, she "did not look or sound like there had been any problem."

That contradicts last week's testimony about a bellman who said he encountered the woman shortly after the alleged attack and that she was so distraught he followed her home in his own car to make sure she was OK.

Hurlbert dismissed defense arguments that the case against Bryant was weak. "No prosecutor puts on their whole case at a preliminary hearing," he said.

In court papers filed Tuesday night, his office accused Mackey of trying to smear the alleged victim by making a "conscious misrepresentation of the evidence."

But defense lawyers said evidence "from the prosecution's own laboratory" has been submitted in a sealed motion that could clear the NBA All-Star.

Bryant, a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, is accused of sexually assaulting the woman on June 30. The alleged victim was a clerk at a mountain lodge in Edwards, west of the Vail ski resort, where Bryant was a guest.

Bryant faces one count of felony sexual assault, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Bryant, who is married with a young daughter, has acknowledged having sex with the woman but insists it was consensual, not rape, as she alleges.

Last week, Winters testified that blood from the woman was found on Bryant's T-shirt.

Winters said the woman told him that she and Bryant flirted when they first met and engaged in mutual kissing later, but that he wouldn't stop when she tried to refuse to his attempts to go further.

Winters said the woman reported that she was scared and that Bryant grabbed her with both hands around her neck.

He then forced her over a chair, raped her despite her protests, and then told her repeatedly not to tell anyone about it, the detective said the woman told authorities.

Prosecution sought closed hearing

In addition to raising the alleged victim's sexual history, Mackey also named the woman six times in open court last week after being warned not to do so. (Last week's hearing)

She referred to her only as "the accuser" during Wednesday's proceedings.

Mackey's behavior led prosecutors on Tuesday to charge that Bryant's defense team was making a "conscious misrepresentation of the evidence in order to smear the victim publicly."

Gannett met with lawyers from both sides for about an hour and a half Wednesday before resuming the preliminary hearing.

Colorado's rape shield law allows few exceptions to the prohibition against unrelated details of the alleged victim's sexual or mental health history to be allowed in court. (More on the law)

David Lugert, a former Colorado prosecutor turned defense attorney, said Mackey's conduct in court last week was a show of force on Bryant's behalf.

"She was sending a message to the public that she's going to zealously represent her client and pull out all the stops in doing so," Lugert said.

Linda Fairstein, a former sex crime prosecutor in the New York district attorney's office, said Mackey could face sanctions from the judge after last week's proceedings.

"The old question used to be, a defense attorney would say, 'And sir, when did you stop beating your wife?' It would imply that it had ever occurred," she said.

"If this is just a really tasteless, baseless attempt to make her look promiscuous, and there's no basis in fact for it, the judge may find that Miss Mackey is in contempt."


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