Published October 10, 2003
EAGLE, Colo. – The 19-year-old woman who has accused basketball star Kobe Bryant (search) of sexual assault told investigators he grabbed her neck and raped her from behind, repeatedly asking, "You're not going to tell anyone, right?," a detective testified Thursday.
Eagle County Sheriff's Detective Doug Winters (search) described the encounter in graphic detail at a preliminary hearing that will determine whether Bryant will stand trial on charges that he assaulted the woman at the resort where she worked. His description of the event was based on an interview with the woman, who did not testify Thursday.
The hearing was expected to last only an afternoon, but was adjourned for the day after about six hours of testimony. Judge Frederick Gannett said the hearing would continue next Wednesday, and the district attorney's office said Bryant had to appear.
Bryant, 25, has denied raping the woman and said the sex was consensual. He sat at the defense table staring straight at the detective for much of the hearing, his hands folded in front of him. Bryant occasionally clenched his jaw, but showed little other reaction.
Winters described how, according to the woman, an exciting, chance meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers (search)' superstar led to an assault that left her shaken and in tears. She said she told Bryant "no" at least twice and he ignored her.
It began with a tour of the resort on June 30 that led to some flirting. She went back to Bryant's room and, after some conversation, 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. "She stated she was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable."
She stood up to leave and Bryant gave her a hug that led to some consensual kissing, Winters said.
When she turned around to go, Bryant grabbed her by the neck from behind, pulled up her skirt and raped her against a chair, Winters said. The woman said that Bryant forced her to kiss his penis after the attack, Winters testified.
During and after the alleged attack, Winters said that Bryant kept asking, "You're not going to tell anyone, right?" She said she agreed at one point.
"She didn't want him to commit more physical harm to her," Winters said.
Though the testimony was lurid, the most explosive statement came from Bryant's own defense attorney when she suggested 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 Gannett to empty the courtroom and summon the lawyers to his chambers. Gannett was also 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.
Winters, who was the only person to testify during the hearing, recounted the hourlong interview he had with the woman and her parents at their Eagle home the day after she met Bryant.
Winters said that after the alleged attack, the woman went back to the front desk to finish up her work and left the resort with a bellman. 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 bleeding from the alleged attack, he said.
Winters said the woman seemed serious during the interview.
"I sensed a crackle in her voice," he said. "She stated that he raped her."
Winters said a nurse who examined the woman later at a hospital found injuries consistent with a sexual assault. The prosecution also presented photographs showing vaginal injuries and one of a bruise on the woman's jaw.
Mackey 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 on 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?"
Legal experts had expected the defense to waive the hearing and head straight to trial rather than allow prosecutors to lay out their case publicly for the first time.
Sources close to both sides of the case told Fox News that the forensic evidence will likely make or break the case if it goes to a jury.
"There is obviously a good deal of physical evidence that could be interpreted in different ways," forensic scientist Dr. Larry Kobilinsky told Fox News on Thursday.
The hearing began as hundreds of reporters and a handful of spectators gathered outside the courthouse to catch a glimpse of Bryant, who arrived with his lawyers in a caravan of three sport utility vehicles. He had to take off a necklace and was checked with metal detectors before walking into the courtroom. He had left the Hawaii training camp of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Bryant's agent, Bob Pelinka, was in Eagle with Bryant.
"I'm here to show my support for Kobe, that's all," he told Fox News.
He 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.
He faces a possible prison term of four years to life if convicted.
Fox News' Jamie Colby, Carol McKinley, Rita Cosby, Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.