Bryant's preliminary hearing in doubt due to D.A.'s inaction

THE BALTIMORE SUN

EAGLE, Colo. - Cameras will not be allowed at Kobe Bryant's Oct. 9 preliminary hearing on a felony sexual assault charge, a judge ruled Monday, although there is no guarantee the court appearance will take place because of what legal experts say was a mistake by the prosecutor.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert could have ensured a hearing by filing a motion within 10 days of Bryant's initial court appearance Aug. 6. Because Hurlbert failed to do so, Bryant's attorneys can waive the preliminary hearing and allow the case to go directly to an arraignment.

"This is where the D.A. screwed up," said David Lugert, a former Eagle County deputy district attorney now in private practice. "Now the defense can waive it and the D.A. can't do [anything] about it. All because he didn't file a little piece of paper saying he wanted a preliminary hearing, too."

A spokeswoman for Hurlbert said he made a conscious decision not to make the request.

"It was not anything that slipped his mind," Krista Flannigan said.

Experts are divided whether it is in Bryant's best interests to waive the hearing, during which a judge determines if enough evidence exists for a trial. The testimony and physical evidence Hurlbert is expected to present is already known to the defense.

Bryant is charged with sexually assaulting an Eagle woman June 30 at a resort in Edwards. He says they had consensual sex.

"There is a significant chance the preliminary hearing won't occur," said Craig Silverman, a former Denver deputy district attorney. "The defense might feel there is more to lose than to gain. All that is going to happen is investigators will get up there and read the reports, which the defense has already read."

However, Bryant's attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon, might believe the case could be dismissed at a preliminary hearing. They also could subpoena Bryant's 19-year-old accuser to test her resolve on the witness stand.

Yesterday, The Orange County (Calif.) Register reported that Bryant's attorneys have subpoenaed the accuser to appear for questioning at the preliminary hearing.

The decision by Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett to prohibit courtroom cameras might nudge Mackey and Haddon toward holding the hearing.

"[The graphic details are] going to come out at some point anyway and the defense is going to have to deal with it," said Karen Steinhauser, a University of Denver law professor.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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