Walking out of a pretrial hearing last week, Kobe Bryant looked as apprehensive as he ever has since sexual-assault charges were brought against the NBA superstar. The apparent reason: potentially damaging testimony by an Eagle County, Colo., undercover investigator. "Detective A," testifying from behind a black curtain, described the scene when detectives made their first contact with Bryant at his hotel after a Colorado teenager accused him of sexual assault last summer. The detective said Bryant's bodyguard--Troy Laster, an off-duty Los Angeles police officer--commented, "If this is what I think it is, I don't want to be involved." Bryant's attorney was quick to label the detective's allegation "a complete lie." But some courtroom observers thought it could give the prosecution ammunition by suggesting that a member of Bryant's entourage knew about the sexual encounter and was expecting trouble.
The testimony came during two days of a hearing on pretrial motions. Both Bryant and his alleged victim have asked chief district court Judge Terry Ruckriegle to withhold material from the public record. Bryant, who admits to consensual sex, doesn't want his statements to investigators made known. The accuser wants her medical records to remain confidential. Ruckriegle heard testimony on both issues during the hearing, which will resume March 1.
--By Rita Healy