- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

EAGLE, Colo. — The woman who accused Kobe Bryant of rape told police a flirtatious encounter quickly turned ugly when he grabbed her by the neck, bent her over a chair and attacked her, repeatedly asking, “You’re not going to tell anybody about this, right?”

The 19-year-old woman was raped after agreeing to go to Bryant’s suite at the resort where she worked, Eagle County Sheriff’s Detective Doug Winters testified yesterday at a preliminary hearing to determine whether Bryant will stand trial.

Winters described in graphic detail for a packed courtroom how, according to the woman, an exciting, chance meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar led to a nightmarish assault that left her shaken and in tears.

She said she told Bryant “no” at least twice and he ignored her, pulling her dress up and her underwear down and raping her from behind.

At one point, the woman told police, Bryant forced her to face him and say “no” when he asked if she was going to tell anyone. After the attack, Bryant made her kiss his penis, Winters said the woman told investigators.

Bryant, 25, has insisted the sex was consensual. He sat at the defense table staring straight at Winters for much of the hearing, hands folded in front of him. Bryant occasionally clenched his jaw, but showed little other reaction.

Though the testimony was graphic, the most explosive statement came from Bryant’s own defense attorney when she suggested under cross examination that the woman’s injuries would also be “consistent with a person who has had sex with three different men in three days.”

That led an angry Judge Frederick Gannett to empty the courtroom and summon the lawyers to chambers. Gannett also was upset earlier when defense attorney Pamela Mackey said the woman’s name six times when asking questions.

She apologized, saying she would write herself a big note not to say it.

“Or I could get you a big muzzle,” Gannett said.

The hearing — expected to last only an afternoon — was finally adjourned after more than six hours, an indication the trial could be long and laborious for both sides. Gannett said it would continue next Wednesday, and the district attorney’s office said Bryant had to appear.

Winters, the only witness of the afternoon, recounted what the woman told him in an hour-long interview the day after she met Bryant at the resort. It all began with a tour of the hotel on June30 that led to some flirting. She went back to Bryant’s room and showed him a tattoo on her ankle, then turned down his request to join him in the hot tub, Winters said.

Her shift at the front desk was ending and she wanted to go home, he said, and “she was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable.”

Winters said she stood up to leave and Bryant gave her a hug that led to some consensual kissing, Winters said.

But when she turned to go, Bryant grabbed her by the neck, pulled up her black dress and raped her against a chair, Winters said. She told investigators she said “no” at least twice, before bursting into tears as the five-minute attack went on.

Bryant wasn’t holding her neck so tight she couldn’t breathe, Winters said, but enough to control her movement.

“She was afraid that he was going to choke her,” he said.

Afterward, Bryant told the woman to clean up, Winters said. She fixed her hair, wiped her face and left after again promising to remain silent.

She went back to the front desk to finish up her work and finally left the resort with an unidentified bellman, Winters said. She told him what happened and he urged her to report it, later following her home.

Winters testified that the woman’s blood was found on the inside of Bryant’s T-shirt, based on DNA tests. The woman told him she had bled from the attack, he said.

The prosecution also presented photographs showing vaginal injuries and one of a bruise on the woman’s jaw, and a rape nurse’s statement that her injuries were not consistent with consensual sex.

Mackey, though, suggested Winters had no idea when the bruise occurred, and got him to acknowledge that the woman needed no treatment for injuries when she was examined. She also questioned him whether he saw marks on her neck when he interviewed her the next day.

“She talks on how Mr. Kobe Bryant grabbed her neck and choked her,” Mackey told Winters. “You looked at her neck to see?”

Winters said he had, then Mackey asked him if he saw any injuries on her neck.

“Not from the front, no,” he said.

“Not a red mark?” she asked.

“That’s correct,” he said.

“Not a scratch?”

“That’s correct.”

Winters said the woman seemed serious when he first interviewed her with her parents at their Eagle home.

“I sensed a crackle in her voice,” he said. “She stated that he raped her.”

Bryant faces up to life in prison if convicted of a felony charge of sexual assault. The judge said he would not rule yesterday whether to proceed to trial.

Legal experts had expected the defense to waive the hearing and head straight to trial rather than allow prosecutors to lay out their case for the first time — evidence that will be discussed in public for months.

Gannett had rejected defense requests to have the woman testify and to see her medical records.

The hearing began as hundreds of reporters and a handful of spectators gathered outside the courthouse to catch a glimpse of Bryant as he arrived with his lawyers in a caravan of three SUVs. He said nothing to the crowd.

Bryant had to take off a necklace and was checked with metal detectors before walking into the courtroom.

Bryant, free on $25,000 bond, had been ordered to appear in court for a bond hearing even if the preliminary hearing was waived. He left the Hawaii training camp of the Lakers on Wednesday.

Bryant has the right to go to trial within six months, but he could agree to push that back until later, perhaps after the NBA season ends early next summer.

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