Florida woman to be subpoenaed for Bryant case
A Florida woman claims Kobe Bryant groped her almost two years ago, and 13 months after she made the claim, prosecutors say they want her to tell her story in court, according to a magazine story.Sources close to the case confirmed Tuesday that the woman will be subpoenaed to testify, if she has not been already. During a May 2 hearing, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said prosecutors would call no witnesses from outside Colorado, but that may have changed.Legal experts said the woman’s testimony about what happened two years ago would likely be taken in a private hearing, the same way testimony was taken regarding Bryant’s alleged victim’s sexual history.That is, if it’s allowed at all.Bryant’s lead defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, said Tuesday that it takes 60 to 90 days to complete an out-of-state subpoena, reiterating what she told District Judge Terry Ruckriegle during that May 2 hearing. She said they started summoning their out-of-state witnesses July 2, and for all practical purposes, it’s probably too late to subpoena someone from Florida.Local defense attorney Jim Fahrenholtz said Colorado’s disclosure laws require witness lists to be handed over 30 days before trial. Bryant’s trial starts in 23 days, Aug. 27. Fahrenholtz said the woman’s testimony would likely delay the trial, something he said Ruckriegle is unlikely to allow.If Ruckriegle did allow that testimony, it would become part of the prosecution’s main case. If he does not, the woman could still testify to rebut something the defense presented, or Bryant’s testimony.District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said she was prohibited from commenting because this deals with potential facts of the case.To subpoena witnesses from other states, attorneys must ask the court to contact the court in the witness’s home area, in this case Florida. The witness would have to be served court papers requiring an appearance in his or her local court. There, they would explain why they should or should not be required to travel to the other state to testify in a criminal trial.Searching for “similar transations”Local defense attorney and former state and federal prosecutor David Lugert said if the Florida woman’s testimony is admitted and proven, “similar transaction” evidence is powerful, pointing out to juries possible patterns of behavior or that someone tends to create the kinds of opportunities that landed them in trouble with the law.”If this is proven, it’s potentially just as damaging to Mr. Bryant as the rape shield information was to the victim,” said Lugert.Ruckriegle ruled that the alleged victim’s sexual activity 72 hours prior to her rape shield exam is admissible for the trial. Bryant’s defense attorneys say her injuries could have come from sex with other men during that time period, and that she had sex with someone after Bryant and before her rape exam – a claim her attorney, John Clune, vehemently denies.That the Florida woman surfaced should come as no surprise to attorneys for either side. Former Denver District Attorney Norm Early said that if she if she called prosecutors a year ago, as the Sports Illustrated story said she did, it’s in the prosecutor’s file and should be known by the defense already.Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, saying he had consensual sex with the woman, now 20, at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, June 30, 2003. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.Sports Illustrated’s versionJeff Benedict, author of “Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA’s Culture of Rape, Violence and Crime,” a critical look at the NBA, wrote the piece for Sports Illustrated. The story appeared Tuesday on the magazine’s Web site. The Florida woman is not named in his story, and if she appears in court, it will be through a subpoena. According to Benedict’s story, because of what she has seen Kobe Bryant’s alleged rape victim go through, she won’t willingly cooperate.The Sports Illustrated story claims the 22-year-old Florida waitress says she was an employee at Planet Hollywood and had been hired to work at a private party at Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando home on Thanksgiving 2002. The Los Angeles Lakers were in Orlando for a game with the Magic, and O’Neal hosted a team dinner. Sports Illustrated says the woman claims Bryant asked for her cell number, which she gave him, and later asked her to bring him a soft drink outside. The story claims Bryant then cornered her and groped her private parts. She told the magazine that Bryant laughed as she pushed him away, and that she retreated inside O’Neal’s home and called her mother. The next day, the woman says, she received a call from a man who said he was an associate of Bryant’s, apologizing for Bryant’s behavior. The woman told Sports Illustrated she watched Bryant’s press conference after he was charged on July 18, 2003, when he said he didn’t force his alleged victim to do anything against her will, and proclaimed his innocence. According to the Sports Illustrated story, she called Colorado prosecutors to report what she says Bryant did to her.Left unexplained for a witness whose testimony would potentially be significant for the prosecution’s case is how time has elapsed to the point that it appears unlikely she would be allowed to testify.