Basketball superstar’s lawyers offer evidence to counter rape charge

KOBE BRYANT’S attorneys dropped another bombshell yesterday, saying tests on his accuser’s underpants revealed “compelling evidence” the NBA superstar is innocent of rape.

They accused prosecutors of ignoring it.

The defence said the tests found substances later described by the lead investigator as semen from a man other than the Los Angeles Lakers guard.

The details were released in a court filing at the same time Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett rejected a prosecution request to close the remainder of a preliminary hearing to protect the 19-year-old accuser from more publicity.

The hearing will determine whether Bryant, aged 25, will stand trial on a felony charge of sexual assault. He has said the sex with the resort employee June 30 was consensual.

After meeting with attorneys for more than an hour, Gannett admonished the news media to exercise restraint in drawing any conclusions from testimony.

"Understand you have been privy to only a portion of the information," Gannett said. The hearing then resumed with the defence questioning of the lead investigator, sheriff's Detective Doug Winters.

Winters said the Eagle woman told him she had consensual sex on June 27 or June 28 and had used a condom, backing earlier defence suggestions that she had been sexually active before her encounter with Bryant.

Winters also said two pairs of panties from the woman were tested one from the night of June 30, the other being the one she wore to a hospital for an exam the next day.

The latter pair contained blood and semen, said Winters.

"The accuser arrived at the hospital wearing panties with someone else's semen and sperm in them, not that of Mr Bryant, correct?" defence attorney Pamela Mackey asked.

"That's correct," Winters responded.

Pubic hair samples from the woman also turned up Caucasian hairs that could not have come from Bryant, who is black, Winters said.

The defence has suggested that injuries to the woman's vaginal area may have been caused by previous sexual partners. In Wednesday's court filing, defence attorney Hal Haddon said prosecutors deliberately misrepresented blood evidence found on the underpants.

"The clear implication of this testimony was that the accuser was bleeding due to the alleged sexual assault," he said. The prosecution deliberately failed to "put before the court all of the evidence concerning those panties."

The defence said that evidence had been given to Gannett, under seal, and it provided "compelling evidence of innocence."

Prosecutors have accused the defence of a "deliberate and calculated" attempt to dredge up testimony about the woman's sexual history that is irrelevant at such an early stage of the case.

"What was even more unexpected was her conscious misrepresentation of the evidence in order to smear the victim publicly," prosecutor Ingrid Bakke wrote in a court filing.

Bakke said Colorado's rape shield law bars the use of an alleged victim's sexual history in rape cases, with few exceptions.

Last week, the hearing began with graphic testimony from Winters, who said Bryant attacked the woman from behind and raped her over her protestations.

The defence then suggested in open court the accuser may have had sex with other men.

Prosecutors responded by asking for the hearing to be closed, a request ridiculed by the defence.

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