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Bryant’s Statements Admissible

Times Staff Writer

A lengthy interrogation of Kobe Bryant by detectives and the bloodstained T-shirt he wore while allegedly raping a woman at a Colorado resort last summer can be admitted as evidence at the basketball star’s trial next month, a judge ruled Wednesday.

In an order that legal experts said was a victory for the prosecution, Judge Terry Ruckriegle provided previously undisclosed details about Bryant’s dealings with Eagle County, Colo., investigators 24 hours after the alleged assault.

Ruckriegle stopped short of giving prosecutors everything they wanted, however, throwing out evidence from a medical examination taken by Bryant because he did not consent to it. The judge noted that Bryant went into the bathroom with his bodyguards and cried after Eagle County Det. Doug Winters asked him to submit to the examination.

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In a departure from his usual policy, Ruckriegle gave both sides until Tuesday to consider a plea bargain. Typically the judge has not allowed plea agreements after he sets a trial date.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Aug. 27 and the trial is expected to take four to five weeks. A pretrial hearing will take place Monday in Eagle County Court. Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said that he and the woman, now 20, had consensual sex. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000.

Two key rulings are pending. Ruckriegle must determine whether evidence about Bryant’s accuser’s sexual conduct with other men is an exception to the rape-shield law, and the Colorado Supreme Court must decide whether news organizations can publish transcripts mistakenly released from a closed hearing.

Testimony pertaining to Bryant’s statements to detectives and evidence seized from him was presented at five hearings from Feb. 3 to May 10. Most of the arguments were conducted in closed court, and the 75-minute interrogation -- secretly taped by Eagle County Det. Dan Loya -- has not been made public.

Legal analysts said it is doubtful that Bryant admitted on tape to sexually assaulting the woman. Ruckriegle said in his order that the detectives “allowed [Bryant] to explain why he believed the act to be consensual.”

The tape “may become an issue when the accuser takes the stand and gives her version,” Denver defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt said. “If the jury hears Kobe’s version from the tape, they will have to decide who to believe.”

The most crucial piece of admissible evidence might be the white T-shirt Bryant wore during the encounter, analysts said, because prosecutors plan to argue that traces of the accuser’s blood found on it are an indication Bryant used force.

Bryant was wearing the T-shirt when detectives confronted him more than 24 hours later. Bryant also turned over another T-shirt, the blue track pants he wore the night of the encounter, boxer shorts and an envelope and stationery he said the woman had asked him to sign. Ruckriegle determined that although Bryant was not read his Miranda rights, he consented to the interrogation and willingly handed over the clothing.

“We are pleased with the ruling, and we consider it an important ruling,” prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said.

Ruckriegle gave both sides until Tuesday to respond to the ruling. Bryant attorney Hal Haddon said months ago that allowing the public to hear the tape could be embarrassing to his client. Experts expect the defense to ask that only portions of the tape relevant to the charge be heard by the jury.

Significant portions of the tape are inaudible. “If the purpose of the surreptitious recording was to capture the suspect’s answers, it was significantly ineffective,” Ruckriegle said.

Ruckriegle said the detectives were not confrontational and never touched Bryant.

“There is no indication of any promises or threats made to induce Bryant’s cooperation,” the judge said, “although there were discussions about the possibility of publicity after the subject was raised by Bryant.”

Experts said the decision to throw out Bryant’s medical exam was not of great significance because he has admitted to having sex with his accuser. Also, according to testimony, no marks were found on Bryant.


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