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Will Kobe Jury Hear Him On Tape?

NBA star Kobe Bryant leaves the courtroom, Monday March 1, 2004, in Eagle, Colo. Bryant will be in court Tuesday for more pretrial motions.
AP
Los Angeles Laker guard Kobe Bryant has left the courthouse in Eagle following Monday's hearing in his sexual assault case.

Bryant is back at the Eagle County Justice Center for a three-day hearing on several key issues, including whether the defense can use certain information about the alleged victim against her at trial.

Bryant is expected to plead not guilty to charges he raped a 19-year-old woman last June at a Vail-area resort where she worked.

Bryant's accuser slipped into the courthouse through a fire exit Monday, appearing in court for only the second time since the case began. She did not take the stand, but was in court observing as others gave testimony.

The closed hearings resumed with testimony from defense witness Rich Sanders, an audio forensics expert. The defense wants the judge to throw out evidence that includes Bryant's secretly recorded statements to authorities, a T-shirt stained with the woman's blood and the results of his hospital examination.

Defense attorneys say investigators failed to advise Bryant of his right to remain silent, and botched the execution of a search warrant.

The most anticipated moment of the hearing will be Bryant's arraignment, which is not expected to last more than 10 minutes and could come as early as Tuesday.

Bryant will probably only say two words: "Not guilty," but the plea will trigger a trial within six months unless he waives his right to a speedy trial.

It is expected to be the second time the Los Angeles Lakers guard has spoken publicly in court since he was charged with raping a 19-year-old woman last summer.

State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle has allowed a TV camera and a newspaper photographer in the courtroom for only the third time in the case.

"It gives you film of no significance," said Larry Pozner, a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "If people want to see Kobe Bryant saying in a hard, strong voice, `Not guilty,' they get it. But come on, of course only America would put significance on it."

The judge has probably already worked with the sides to set a trial date, which could be as early as August, said David Lugert, a former prosecutor in Eagle County.

Bryant, 25, has said he had consensual sex with the woman last June at the Vail-area resort where she worked. If convicted of felony sexual assault, he would face four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.

The hearing began a day after the Lakers beat San Antonio in the National Basketball League playoffs. Bryant is expected to play when the two teams play again Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and then return to Eagle for the final day of the hearing.

The last sessions of hearings were held April 26 to 28. Key evidentiary issues remain unresolved, including a defense bid to use the woman's sexual history against her at trial.

Bryant's lawyers say injuries to the woman could have come from other sexual partners in the days before her encounter with Bryant, and that evidence from underwear the woman wore to a hospital examination did not match Bryant.

The woman's attorney has denied she had sex with anybody after Bryant and before she reported the encounter to police. Prosecutors say her other sexual encounters are irrelevant to the case.

Colorado's rape-shield law generally bars defense attorneys from introducing an alleged victim's sex life as evidence, but there are exceptions. The judge has said arguments may also begin this week on a defense motion to declare the statute unconstitutional.

Also scheduled for discussion are prosecutors' attempts to limit evidence regarding the woman's mental health history, her purported suicide attempts before her encounter with Bryant and any evidence about her drug and alcohol use.