DENVER – Prosecutors in the Kobe Bryant case will be able to present key pieces of evidence at the NBA star's trial on sexual assault charges next month.
On Wednesday, a judge refused a defense request to throw out a 75-minute interview of Bryant by detectives and evidence including a T-shirt stained with the alleged victim's blood.
Bryant's attorneys said the material was gathered while he was illegally in custody, but the judge disagreed.
District Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) said Bryant cooperated with detectives until they said they wanted him to undergo a medical examination. He threw out the results of that exam because the detectives didn't have the proper court order to take him to a hospital in the middle of the night.
Despite the loss of that evidence, prosecutors praised the ruling.
"We're pleased with the ruling and we consider it an important ruling," prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said.
After-hours calls left with the Denver-based defense team were not immediately returned.
Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault and faces an Aug. 27 trial. He has said he had consensual sex with an employee, now 20, at the Vail-area resort where she worked last summer.
If convicted, Bryant faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000.
Bryant's attorneys have long criticized the Eagle County (search) sheriff's office, saying investigators improperly questioned Bryant and botched the execution of a court order to gather evidence last July.
Prosecutors had argued in favor of submitting the medical exam and the rest of the evidence, saying that it was collected with Bryant's consent the night after the alleged attack.
During a hearing in February, lead investigator Doug Winters (search) acknowledged that Bryant's hospital examination violated Colorado court rules.
Winters and his partner had obtained a type of warrant for "non-testimonial evidence," which usually involves taking samples of hair and fibers. It must be executed during daylight hours to prevent the government from unnecessarily invading the privacy of citizens.
Bryant's exam was performed before dawn at a Glenwood Springs hospital. The results have not been disclosed.
The judge said a tape recording of the interview with Bryant did not indicate whether the NBA star consented to a hospital exam. But he said an audio expert concluded that Bryant had balked at the request.
"The detective then instructed, 'I have a court order so it doesn't matter whether you consent or not,"' the judge wrote. "The court finds that Mr. Bryant was 'in custody' starting from" that moment — and should have thus been advised of his Miranda rights. By that point, however, Bryant had already spoken with investigators and given them the clothing.
Craig Silverman, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, said the overall ruling is a victory for the prosecution, but its significance depends on what Bryant told investigators.
"If he lied about having sex, prosecutors could say that's incriminating. But the defense could say that's a statement you'd expect from a married man," Silverman said.
Also Wednesday, Ruckriegle extended what he called a "plea negotiation deadline" until Tuesday because of his order.