Thursday, October 16, 2003

Bryant hearing comes to close

Judge now decides if trial is necessary

The Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. - Kobe Bryant's accuser showed up for her rape exam wearing panties containing another man's sperm, a startling discovery that defense lawyers called "compelling evidence" the NBA star is innocent.

But Bryant's preliminary hearing ended Wednesday with prosecutors telling a judge there was "uncontradicted" evidence that the Los Angeles Lakers guard raped the 19-year-old woman at a mountain resort.

"He held her by the back of the neck with his hand during sexual intercourse," prosecutor Greg Crittenden said. "He lifted up her skirt. She said 'no.' He pulled down her underpants and she said 'no.' He penetrated her from behind and she cried."

Judge Frederick Gannett said he hoped to rule by Monday whether Bryant will have to stand trial on a sexual assault charge that could send him to prison for life.

Gannett has to find there is probable cause to believe Bryant raped the woman, something defense attorney Pamela Mackey told the judge prosecutors failed to prove because the woman told her story through a sheriff's detective.

"She is not worthy of your belief," Mackey said.

Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said, however, he was confident the judge would send the case to trial.

"No prosecutor puts on their whole case at a preliminary hearing," he said. "In this case, you saw kind of a sanitized version."

If the two-day preliminary hearing wasn't the entire prosecution case, it still contained graphic details about an encounter that began with the woman excited to meet the basketball superstar, escalated into consensual kissing and hugging and ended with sex across the back of a chair.

Prosecutors tried to portray Bryant as an arrogant athlete who held the woman down and raped her, concerned only that she might talk about the encounter.

When it was the defense's turn to question the lead detective in the case, Mackey tried to poke holes in the woman's story, raise doubts about whether she told Bryant "no" and show she had sex with someone else two days before the alleged assault June 30.

"This is an extremely thin case based mostly on hearsay," Mackey said.

REALIGNMENT: The NBA plans to switch to six five-team divisions for the 2004-05 season, when the Charlotte Bobcats become the league's 30th team.

The proposal, which includes having three divisions per conference instead of two, is expected to be approved formally by the board of governors, deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Wednesday. A vote could come as early as next month.

Eight teams from each conference still would make the playoffs: the winner of each division plus the teams with the next five best records in each conference.

The NBA will realign along geographic lines. New Orleans will move from the East to the West, and Charlotte will be in the East.

JAMES ON TV: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are going Hollywood.

The Cavaliers play the Los Angeles Lakers twice over the next four days, including a nationally televised preseason game today.

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Bryant hearing comes to close

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