Bryant's accuser testifies

Closed-door session focuses on her sex life

Jurisprudence

March 25, 2004|By Steve Henson | Steve Henson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

EAGLE, Colo. -- The young woman accusing Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant of sexual assault testified for nearly four hours yesterday during a closed-door hearing that will determine whether details about her sex life will be admissible at trial.

Ten minutes after Bryant took his seat in the small Eagle County courtroom, the 19-year-old woman emerged through a fire exit flanked by her attorneys and walked into the courtroom wearing tan slacks, a dark blazer and a resolute expression.

While she testified, her parents stood outside the courtroom talking with friends who accompanied them. Only court personnel, attorneys and Bryant heard the woman's testimony.

"She walked in and out of court with her head held high," said Cynthia Stone, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "We think that is a great sign."

The rape-shield hearing marked the first time the Lakers' star and his accuser had faced each other since their encounter June 30 at a mountain resort, where she says he raped her. Bryant has said they had consensual sex.

The woman finished her testimony by the lunch recess and will not return today, when the hearing will resume at 10 a.m. Five additional witnesses testified during the afternoon, including Bobby Pietrack, the hotel bellman who was the first person the woman spoke to after she left Bryant's room.

Pietrack, a senior basketball player at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., was questioned by defense attorney Pamela Mackey for an hour. Others who took the stand included Mandy Ross, the woman's roommate at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in 2002-03; Lindsay McKinney, the woman's longtime friend from Eagle Valley High, and two unidentified young men.

Several more witnesses are expected to testify today. If the rape-shield hearing is concluded, Judge Terry Ruckriegle will resume a hearing to decide whether Bryant's recorded statements to investigators and a T-shirt stained with the accuser's blood should be admissible.

Bryant's attorneys are trying to establish that the woman's sexual history is an exception to the rape-shield law because they say she had a "scheme" to have sex with Bryant and others to gain the attention of an ex-boyfriend. Also, the defense says minor vaginal injuries could have been caused by another sex partner.

The woman was examined about 15 hours after the alleged rape, and DNA results have shown that seminal fluid and sperm found on her thighs and vaginal area were from a man other than Bryant. Dried semen from someone other than Bryant also was found on the underwear she wore to the examination.

The defense contends she had sex with someone else between the time she left Bryant's room and her examination. The woman has denied that.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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