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Bryant misses hearing in court, citing illness


EAGLE, Colo. - Kobe Bryant, already sidelined from Los Angeles Lakers games because of a cut on his index finger, was a no-show for a crucial court hearing yesterday because of what were described as flu-like symptoms.

The pretrial hearing, which was closed to the public, centered on whether Bryant's attorneys can gain access to certain medical and psychological records of the woman accusing Bryant of rape.

Eight witnesses testified and court spokeswoman Karen Salaz said the hearing had been completed. Judge Terry Ruckriegle is not expected to issue a ruling for several days.

Bryant, who was in the Eagle County area yesterday, must attend today's suppression hearing for it to go forward, according to Krista Flannigan, spokeswoman for the prosecution.

Salaz was told Bryant would be in court today, but if he is too ill to attend, the proceeding would be postponed, possibly until March due to limited courtroom availability.

Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault stemming from a June 30 encounter with a 19-year-old hotel worker at an Edwards, Colo., resort. He has said they had consensual sex. No trial date has been set.

Legal analysts are split on whether the Lakers star would be called to testify today. His attorneys contend that a 75-minute interrogation of Bryant conducted by sheriff's investigators was illegal and cannot be used against him.

Attorneys Hal Haddon and Pamela Mackey also say that physical evidence obtained during the early morning July 2 at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera is inadmissible. The evidence includes a blood-stained T-shirt Bryant was wearing.

Bryant, his attorneys say, was "in custody" and should have been read his Miranda rights. Also, the defense contends the search warrant used by Eagle County Sheriff's detectives was only valid during the day and the investigation was at night.

"I think Kobe will testify because he needs to explain that he felt he was not free to leave when he was being interviewed," said David Lugert, a former Eagle County deputy district attorney who has followed the case.

However, former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman says Bryant has more to lose than to gain.

"If he is called as a witness, he is subject to cross-examination," he said. "Anything he says now cannot be changed later at trial. He would have to be very careful. I don't think [Haddon and Mackey] will put him on."

Yesterday, eight witnesses went in and out of the courtroom. Testimony was taken from a sheriff's officer and several people close to the accuser, including her mother and an ex-boyfriend.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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