1. Archive

Bryant attorneys raise race issue

Kobe Bryant's defense team dropped another bombshell in open court Friday by suggesting black men have long been falsely accused of rape by white women.

Attorney Pamela Mackey, who has angered victims' advocates with her attempts to undermine the credibility of Bryant's 19-year-old accuser, raised the race issue during a hearing that will help determine whether the woman's medical history can be used against her at trial.

Even as the defense pressed for access to the woman's medical history, it also asked the judge to seal a tape of Bryant's police interrogation because the basketball star made "intensely personal" statements to detectives.

It was the third appearance before the trial judge for the Los Angeles Lakers star, who faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. Bryant, 25, has said he had consensual sex with the employee of a mountain resort last June.

The comment from Mackey came during a squabble over the notes of a rape crisis center worker who sat in on a police interview with Bryant's accuser. The defense wants access to the notes.

Inga Causey, attorney for the Resource Center of Eagle County, said releasing more details would discourage rape victims from coming forward.

Mackey urged the judge to avoid the "political agenda of the rape crisis center."

"My client stands accused of a very serious crime. There is lots of history about black men being falsely accused of this crime by white women," Mackey said.

It was the first time defense attorneys have made such a suggestion in open court, though they raised the idea in a court filing last week. They have said the woman, who is white, had a "scheme" to falsely accuse Bryant to win attention from an ex-boyfriend.

Legal experts said it was inevitable that race would become a factor in the high-profile case.

"They will give the jury a smorgasbord of reasons why the rape allegation was false," said Craig Silverman, a Denver defense attorney. "They're giving jurors a hook to hang their reasonable-doubt hat on."