Judge will decide soon whether to release court records in Kobe Bryant case

Updated: August 20, 2003, 3:50 PM ET

EAGLE, Colo. -- A judge said Wednesday he hopes to decide this week whether to unseal documents in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case that could include statements from his accuser and witnesses about what happened in his hotel suite six weeks ago.

The documents have been sealed since Bryant was arrested last month, but media organizations have sought their release. Legal experts say the records could include details from witnesses who saw the Los Angeles Lakers star or his accuser, or heard sounds from Bryant's hotel room.

The material could also outline what evidence has been collected.

Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett said he hopes to make his decision by Friday. He said if he does rule in favor of releasing the documents, an appeal will almost certainly keep them sealed pending a hearing.

Bryant, 24, is charged with raping a 19-year-old employee of the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera on June 30. He has said the sex was consensual.

Bryant, who remains free on a $25,000 bond, is scheduled to return to Eagle for an Oct. 9 preliminary hearing, where Gannett will decide whether there is enough evidence for a trial.

Little is known about evidence in the case, though District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has said he believes he can prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Records are sealed and Gannett has issued a gag order on attorneys and investigators.

However, documents in other sexual assault cases suggest the Bryant records include an arrest affidavit in which investigators describe their involvement in the case and what they were told by his accuser. They also could include statements from Bryant himself.

Search warrant affidavit and return documents would describe what evidence investigators sought and what they found.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has conducted tests on evidence in the Bryant case. Deputy Director Pete Mang declined to discuss details, but he said evidence in rape cases generally includes fingerprints, hairs, fibers, DNA test results and documents.

If the case goes to trial, Bryant's admission of adultery will put more emphasis on his credibility and that of the woman, legal experts said. But they also said prosecutors will also have to present convincing physical evidence.

"Credibility contests are especially hard to win in a criminal context where the burden of proof is so high," said Katharine Baker, a Chicago-Kent College of Law professor. "You really, really have to believe Sally more than Bill."

Without physical evidence, it will be difficult to convict Bryant, said Stan Goldman, professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"It's not like this guy has prior sex assaults on his record," he said.

Any injuries suffered, torn clothing or screams that would be consistent with the use of force also would be key evidence.

"There are two issues in a sex assault case," Mang said. "One is I didn't do it, I wasn't there and yes, I did do it, it was consensual."


Associated Press Writers Colleen Slevin and Jennifer Hamilton contributed to this report.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index