DA remains confident in Bryant case
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert stood defiantly behind his case and before a pack of reporters in front of the Eagle County Justice Center Wednesday on a blustery day that most analysts agree was loaded with victories for Kobe Bryant’s defense team.”No prosecutor puts on their whole case at a preliminary hearing,” Hurlbert said in an impromptu press conference Oct. 15, “and in this case you actually heard a rather sanitized version of a preliminary hearing I am confident in the people’s case versus Kobe Bryant.”The second day of the preliminary hearing, which requires the prosecution to show probable cause to take a case to trial, lacked the bombshells of last week’s proceedings. But Bryant defense attorney Pamela Mackey still managed to shoot numerous holes in the DA’s third-degree sexual assault case against the 25-year-old NBA superstar.”Everything about this case is a dog,” said local defense attorney Jim Fahrenholtz. “The chances of this surviving at trial I would say are less than zero. (Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett) is going to bind it over (to trial), but he’d be doing the prosecution a favor if he didn’t.”The day began at 10 a.m. with Mackey continuing her cross-examination of lead detective Doug Winters of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.She wasted no time getting Winters to admit that Bryant’s alleged victim, a 19-year-old Eagle Valley High School graduate, wore a different pair of panties to a nurse’s examination the day after the alleged June 30 attack. The yellow, knit panties contained semen from someone other than Bryant and pubic hears from an unidentified Caucasian male. Winters said the alleged victim admitted to having sex with someone other than Bryant on either June 27 or 28. But some legal analysts say the second pair of panties may indicate the alleged victim had sex with someone else after her encounter with Bryant.”She either has horrible laundry practices or she had sex after her encounter with Kobe Bryant,” former Denver chief deputy district attorney Craig Silverman said. “It’s mind-boggling that the prosecution has not taken the time to identify the depositor of that semen.”But in his closing arguments asking Gannett to send the case to trial in district court, Eagle County deputy district attorney Greg Crittenden cited the blood-stained panties the alleged victim wore the night of her sexual encounter with Bryant.”The defendant met the victim that night (June 30) and minutes later he sexually penetrated her, hurting her to the point that she bled,” Crittenden said. “That’s uncontradicted.”Discounting Mackey’s argument that the state’s entire case was based on hearsay and therefore should be dismissed, Crittenden also said there is direct evidence of the alleged victim’s blood on Bryant’s T-shirt from that night. He also said photographs of the woman’s vaginal injuries offer strong non-hearsay evidence.Mackey effectively ended last week’s hearing by asking if those injuries were consistent with someone who had had sex with three different men in three days. She also was admonished that day for naming the alleged victim six times in open court.Wednesday, Mackey was much more careful, consistently calling the alleged victim “the accuser” and alluding to prior sexual activity through questioning of Winters about the second pair of panties.Analysts say Mackey scored points by getting Winters to testify that after his first interview with the alleged victim on July 1 he wondered why she never told Bryant “no” during what the Los Angeles Lakers guard says was a consensual sexual encounter at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera. In a subsequent interview with Winters, the alleged victim said she told Bryant “no” several times during the attack, the detective testified last week.Also Wednesday, Mackey asked Winters about a letter sent to him by the night auditor at the Edwards hotel, who told police the alleged victim, a concierge at the time, finished her pay sheets at the front desk after the encounter and “did not look or sound as if there had been any problem.”Finally, Mackey hammered away at the alleged victim’s room assignments for Bryant and his entourage. She repeatedly asked Winters about the distance between Bryant’s room (35) and those of his bodyguards and trainer (18 and 20). The defense insinuation is that the alleged victim purposefully kept Bryant away from his handlers so she could use a “back way” to sneak to his room.After numerous prosecution objections about relevance and Mackey’s dogged efforts to make a point about the room locations, Gannett shut down that line of questioning:”If anyone thought that I was dense enough not to figure this out, I now officially declare than I’m not that dense,” Gannett said to chuckles from the packed courtroom. “The rooms were far apart.”Denver defense attorney Scott Robinson, who recently won the high-profile Kathleen Denson murder case in Eagle, agreed the state’s case looks weak, but he added it would have been difficult for the DA not to file charges.”As a political reality, it would be very hard for a DA to look a young girl in the face and say, ‘I don’t believe you,'” Robinson said.He also predicted the defense would file for change of venue and try to move the case to Breckenridge. “If I’m the defense attorney, I’m not worried about race or publicity; it’s local ties to the victim. My prediction is (the trial) will end up somewhere else in the Fifth (Judicial District), and Breckenridge is a natural choice.”Gannett said he hoped to decide by Monday, Oct. 20, whether to bind the case over the district court. At that point, an arraignment date will be set, and Bryant would then have to return to enter a plea. A trial might not happen until next spring or summer.
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