Report: Bryant gave inconsistent statements

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 31, 2003

EAGLE, Colo. - Kobe Bryant and the woman who accused him of sexual assault had some consensual sexual contact in his mountain resort suite, but prosecutors will argue the woman did not consent to intercourse, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Citing unnamed sources, the network also said the 19-year-old woman was in Bryant's room for less than a half hour and that Bryant later gave inconsistent statements to Eagle County authorities.

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

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Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the Eagle County prosecutor, did not return calls or pages late Wednesday. She declined comment to the newspaper.

Bryant's attorney, Pamela Mackey, did not return a phone message seeking comment. Police and court records have been sealed and a judge has limited what officials can say about the case.

Bryant, an All-Star guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, has been charged with one count of sexual assault. Bryant, who is married with one daughter, said he had consensual sex with the woman.

Bryant has posted a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to return to Colorado on Aug. 6 for an initial court appearance, where he will be advised of the charge against him and of his rights.

In a report posted on its Web site, ABC News reported that the woman, who was a concierge at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, gave Bryant a tour of the facility on June 30. He later called and asked her to come to his room and she did, the report said.

When he filed charges 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 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.''