Friday, October 17, 2003

NBA Notebook

Experts anticipate trial for Bryant

The Associated Press

DENVER - Kobe Bryant probably will be ordered to stand trial for rape, but it remains to be seen if prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him, many legal experts said.

During a two-day preliminary hearing that ended Wednesday, both sides showed hints of their strategy. Prosecutors alleged the Lakers star forced himself on the Eagle, Colo., woman; Bryant's attorneys attacked her credibility.

"This is just the beginning in terms of the evidence and at a probable cause hearing, you put on the minimal amount of evidence that you think you need in order to get over the probable cause threshold," former Denver prosecutor Karen Steinhauser said Thursday.

"I would imagine there's going to be a lot more coming and that's why people should not make value judgments at this point in time on the strengths and weaknesses of the case."

Judge Frederick Gannett hoped to decide by Monday whether to order Bryant to stand trial on the sexual assault charge. A 19-year-old woman accused the Los Angeles Lakers' guard of raping her June 30 at the resort where she worked. Bryant has said the two had consensual sex.

On Wednesday, defense attorney Pamela Mackey got the lead investigator to acknowledge the panties the woman wore to the hospital less than 24 hours after the alleged assault had sperm and pubic hair that did not match Bryant's. Mackey said it presented "compelling evidence" her client is innocent.

The panties were a different pair from the ones the woman said she wore the night she met Bryant.

"I don't think they proved innocence. They raised a series of questions," said Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. "It could conceivably set the stage for plea negotiations or some type of out-of-court settlement."

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said Thursday the woman and her family were doing well. "Her resolve has not weakened," Flannigan said.

WIZARDS: Guard Jerry Stackhouse will have surgery on his right knee next week, and it appears unlikely he will be ready for the start of the season Oct. 29. Stackhouse led the team in scoring last season, averaging 21.5 points a game.

Stackhouse was diagnosed with a condition that has deteriorated the lining on the back of his kneecap.

ROCKETS: Forward Eddie Griffin was suspended indefinitely after he failed to show up for practice before Thursday's exhibition game against Sacramento. The suspension came a day after coach Jeff Van Gundy met with Griffin to discuss another no-show; the third-year player missed the team's flight to Sacramento on Monday.

BOBCATS: Bernie Bickerstaff, the NBA's coach of the year in 1987, was hired as general manager and coach of Charlotte's expansion franchise. Bickerstaff, who was general manager of the WNBA Charlotte Sting last season, spent 10 years as an NBA coach with Seattle, Denver and Washington.

SUNS: Guard DerMarr Johnson, a first-round draft pick by the Hawks in 2000, was waived. Johnson, a former Cincinnati Bearcat who did not play in the NBA last season after breaking his neck in a traffic accident, averaged 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in three seasons with the Hawks before being released and picked up by Phoenix.

WILLIAMS SHOOTING: Former NBA star Jayson Williams' trial for the shooting death of a limousine driver has been moved from Hunterdon County, N.J., to a neighboring Somerset County because of heavy publicity about the case. Williams, 35, is accused of recklessly handling the shotgun that killed limousine driver Costas Christofi in 2002 at Williams' home, and the trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in January.

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Experts anticipate trial for Bryant

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