Originally created 09/13/03

Bryant's attorneys ask judge to close preliminary hearing



DENVER -- Kobe Bryant's attorneys asked a judge Friday to close next month's preliminary hearing, saying publicity would threaten the NBA star's right to a fair trial on a rape charge. They also accused authorities of secretly recording a statement by Bryant.

The Oct. 9 hearing will determine whether the Los Angeles Lakers guard will stand trial on a charge of sexually assaulting a Colorado resort worker over the summer. He has said the two had consensual sex.

Defense attorney Hal Haddon said the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that closing preliminary hearings is justified if a defendant's right to a fair trial is at stake.

He also cited an earlier ruling to keep detailed court records in the case sealed in which a judge concluded there was "a substantial probability that defendant's right to a fair trial would be prejudiced."

Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, declined comment. The prosecution is fighting a defense request to have the accuser testify at the hearing.

Bryant is charged with sexually assaulting the woman on June 30 at the Edwards resort where he was a guest and she was an employee.

The prosecution has said it will disclose some of its evidence at the hearing, including testimony from a detective, photographs of injuries to the accuser, a videotaped statement she made to investigators and an "electronically enhanced" version of an interview Bryant gave to authorities sometime after the incident.

The defense had sharp criticism of how the recording was obtained and said it should be barred.

"The public revelation of this potentially inadmissible statement is a compelling ground for closing the preliminary hearing," Haddon said.

Bryant's attorneys did not return calls seeking additional comment.

The defense bid to have Bryant's accuser testify during the hearing will probably be rejected by Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett, legal experts say. Such hearings typically require only bare-bones evidence against the defendant for a judge to order a trial.

Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the hearing has little value for Bryant's attorneys unless the accuser testifies.

"You can't cross-examine a piece of paper that the detective will be reading from," Goldman said.

Earlier Friday, Bryant's accuser joined prosecutors in asking the judge to throw out the defense subpoena seeking her testimony. Attorney John Clune said his client does not want to testify and he said the defense in Colorado criminal cases has no right to compel testimony from alleged victims during preliminary hearings.

Clune and District Attorney Mark Hurlbert are also trying to block attempts by Bryant's attorneys to obtain the woman's medical records.

Flannigan also said the defense sent out new subpoenas this week - to the Vail police department, Eagle County sheriff's office, the Best Western Eagle Lodge and the Resource Center of Eagle County, which operates a crisis hot line.

Suzanne Silverthorn, a spokeswoman for the town of Vail, said the subpoena seeks police records, but declined to elaborate.

Vail police handle emergency calls for several law enforcement and fire agencies, including the Eagle County sheriff's office and the Eagle police department, and maintains records of those calls.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Andree said the subpoena sought records, but refused to elaborate. Officials with the hotel and the Resource Center did not return calls.

Prosecutors have received notice that Bryant's attorneys are also seeking records from AT&T and Verizon Communications, Flannigan said.