Testimony of Bryant's accuser delayed

Judge might limit scope of questioning after tactics of defense turn aggressive

March 02, 2004|By Steve Henson | Steve Henson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

EAGLE, Colo. - Kobe Bryant's attorneys went on the offensive yesterday, making controversial allegations about the sexual activity of the woman who has accused the Los Angeles Lakers star of rape.

The defense said during a pretrial hearing and in a court filing that the woman has had sex with two prosecution witnesses and that she also had intercourse only hours after her encounter with Bryant.

Early yesterday, Judge Terry Ruckriegle denied a motion by the prosecution to limit defense questioning of the woman. But after the lunch recess, the judge rescinded that decision.

It was not entirely clear why the judge had a change of heart, but some observers suggested he might have taken exception to defense attorney Hal Haddon's written motion.

Acting on a request from Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, Ruckriegle said he would take the motion under advisement and postponed the woman's testimony until at least March 24, the date of the next scheduled hearing.

Haddon had told Ruckriegle that swabs of semen taken from the neck, thigh and vaginal area of the 19-year-old accuser during an examination 15 hours after the alleged rape were from a man other than Bryant.

Hurlbert objected to the comment, prompting an extended private conversation between the judge and attorneys.

Haddon did not mention the woman's sexual conduct again, but in a court document filed over the weekend and made public yesterday, he offered several reasons why it is relevant and should be an exception to the state's rape shield law.

Prosecutors say the woman's sexual past is not relevant to whether she was raped and that it should not be allowed to be a topic at trial.

The woman says she was assaulted on the night of June 30, 2003, at the Edwards, Colo., resort where she worked. Bryant, 25, says they had consensual sex. He faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, if convicted.

Haddon's filing reiterated earlier descriptions of defense strategy and added new details based on new evidence. He said testing of physical evidence from the rape kit by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation last week revealed the semen from an unidentified man.

In addition, Haddon said the defense has established:

Evidence that the accuser engaged in multiple acts of sexual intercourse within the two days preceding her encounter with Bryant as well as within 15 hours afterward.

There is "factual similarity" between the woman's sexual acts with other men and the circumstances of her intercourse with Bryant. The acts also show the "accuser's knowledge, intent, common plan, pattern and modus operandi with respect to whether she consented to having sex with Bryant, the defense said.

There is evidence that the woman had sexual relationships with two prosecution witnesses. A source close to the prosecution said the men are the woman's ex-boyfriend, Matt Herr, and hotel bellman Bobby Pietrack. The woman called Herr on her cell phone while driving home from her encounter with Bryant. Pietrack followed her home in his car.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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