By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 10, 2003; Page A01
EAGLE, Colo., Oct. 9 -- Kobe Bryant's accuser told police that
the National Basketball Association all-star player grabbed her
by the neck, bent her over a chair, and raped her violently
while she wept and repeatedly said "no," a sheriff's deputy
testified Thursday in the first evidentiary hearing of Bryant's
Bryant's lawyers made it clear at the preliminary hearing that
his chief defense strategy will be a forceful attack on the
veracity and character of the 19-year-old hotel clerk who
alleges that Bryant raped her at a mountain resort in late June.
Defense lawyer Pamela Mackey repeatedly named the alleged victim
during the explosive courtroom session -- despite a court order
barring use of her name -- and then suggested that the woman had
been promiscuous with more than one man in the days before her
encounter with Bryant.
Prosecutors immediately objected, arguing that Mackey's comment
was unsupported by evidence and violated the Colorado law
protecting rape victims. At that point, county judge Frederick
Gannett banged the session to a close, lectured the lawyers in
his chambers, and rescheduled the proceeding for next week.
Before that dramatic denouement, though, Eagle County
prosecutors, who have charged the Los Angeles Lakers' guard with
felony sexual assault, used the hearing to set forth the woman's
detailed description of her fateful encounter with Bryant.
Eagle County Sheriff's Detective Doug Winters, who interviewed
the alleged victim the morning after the incident, testified
that the woman described herself as excited when the superstar
athlete walked into the hotel where she worked, and flattered
when Bryant asked her to come to his suite. She told police,
Winters continued, that she did not initially resist when Bryant
hugged and kissed her, but was unable to break free when the
6-foot-6 athlete held her by the neck with one hand, pulled off
her underwear with the other, and violated her. According to the
testimony, the woman told investigators that Bryant repeatedly
warned her not to tell anyone what had happened.
Winters also testified that a trained sexual assault nurse who
examined the woman the day after the incident found blood in her
underwear and vaginal injuries "not consistent with consensual
Bryant, a husband and father, has admitted having sex with the
woman that night. He says the intercourse was consensual, and
that assertion is the heart of his defense. If convicted, he
faces penalties ranging from 20 years of closely supervised
probation to a prison term of four years to life.
Bryant was required to attend Thursday's hearing as a condition
of his release on $25,000 bail. Wearing a dark blue suit over a
cappuccino-colored polo shirt, he listened with an impassive
face throughout the five-hour court session. Surrounded by his
lawyers, his agent, and phalanx of bodyguards, he said nothing
before, during or after the hearing.
Mackey, a prominent Denver defense lawyer, did the talking for
the Bryant side, and was aggressive throughout the hearing. In
mocking tones, she described the accuser's account as "this
story she told." She repeatedly asked Winters why he had seen no
bruises on the woman's neck or arms the morning after the
incident. "Does that support this story of grabbing her
neck?" Mackey demanded.
Finally, Mackey got around to the nurse's report, which said the
vaginal injuries were not consistent with consensual sex. It was
at that point that she began to suggest the woman had been with
other recent partners – until she was cut off in mid-sentence by
the prosecutors' objections and the judge.
Colorado's Rape Shield Law makes it illegal for anyone -- even a
defense attorney -- to make accusations about an alleged
victim's prior sexual conduct except in rare circumstances.
In Colorado criminal law, a preliminary hearing is essentially a
protective measure for the defendant. The prosecutors must prove
to the judge's satisfaction they have enough evidence of a crime
to justify a full-scale trial.
Several local criminal lawyers who came to the courtroom as
spectators Thursday agreed that the prosecutors probably
produced enough evidence to meet the fairly low standard
required to "bind over" a case for trial. The judge's decision
will not be made until the conclusion of the hearing, which will
reconvene here next Wednesday morning. Bryant must be present.
But the lawyers in the audience also said Mackey's
cross-examination had poked holes in the prosecution's case.
"I'm surprised at how weak the case was today," said Bruce
Carey, a prominent Eagle County defense attorney. "I think it
will go to trial. But if they don't have more than this by the
trial, the result is going to be 'not guilty.' "
The accuser, a resident of Eagle who has finished one year in
college, told investigators that she engaged in "mutual
flirting" with Bryant as she gave him a tour of the
$350-per-night Lodge at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo., according
to testimony Thursday. They then went back to his suite and he
asked for a hug, she reported. They began kissing. Then Bryant
put both hands on her neck, and she became frightened, Winters
testified. "She was trying to move toward the door. His back's
toward the door, she's trying to get around him, and he blocked
her movement," Winters testified, recalling what the woman
reported. "He forced her toward the chair area. She said, 'No.'
She was crying," he said, adding, "she felt pain in her vaginal
The intercourse lasted about five minutes, according to the
woman's report. Winters said he did not ask her whether there
was oral sex as well. But when the rape nurse asked her an hour
later, the woman said Bryant had forced her to kiss his genital
area after the intercourse.
After that, the woman told investigators, she used the bathroom
in Bryant's suite to clean up and straighten her clothes. She
then went to the lobby and told a bellman that she had been
raped by the famous basketball player. The next morning her
father called the sheriff's office, and thus began a
high-profile criminal drama that will presumably continue in the
courts for months to come.
2003 The Washington Post Company
^top of page^