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Letters provide spectrum of views

EAGLE, Colo. -- Got something to say about the Kobe Bryant
case? You aren't alone.

The judge overseeing the sexual assault case against the Los Angeles Lakers star has received at least two dozen letters offering advice on how to proceed. A Jewish grandmother from New
York supports Bryant, while a World War II veteran is suggesting lie detector tests for everyone involved -- on national television.

The letters aren't part of the official court record but they
are good reading. Legal experts also say there is an outside chance
the defense could cite them if they ask the judge to move the
trial.

Larry Pozner, a former president of the Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers, said he doubts Eagle County Judge Frederick
Gannett is even reading the letters, which are common in
high-profile cases. He said judges must remain unbiased and wait to
learn about the case based on evidence presented in court.

"The American justice system is not a participatory event,"
Pozner said Tuesday. "You don't get to vote. This isn't 'American
Idol.'"

Bryant, 24, was charged with a single felony count of sexual
assault after a 19-year-old employee at an Edwards resort said he
raped her there June 30. Bryant, who faces an Oct. 9 preliminary
hearing, has said the two had consensual sex.

The letters sent to the judge include two from media outlets
requesting interviews, while a man from San Antonio simply asked
Gannett for a couple of autographed business cards.

Then there is the 35-page packet that includes newspaper stories
about the unsolved JonBenet Ramsey murder case sent by Fleet and
Priscilla White of Boulder. The former Ramsey family friends
encouraged Gannett to punish anyone who leaks information about the
case.

No letters expressed outright support for Bryant's accuser but
the veteran, Robert Spring of Polk, Ohio, said the reports of her
alleged emotional problems shouldn't make a difference if she was
raped. John B. Thompson, a lawyer from Coral Gables, Fla., wrote to
say he was worried for the woman's safety because of all the media
attention.

Those taking a side in the case came out largely in support of
Bryant.

Jamie Carlson, an NBA fan from Fort Collins in her late 20s,
said she admired Bryant for his behavior on and off the court and
blamed the media for making him into someone he's not.

"People are innocent until proven guilty and it seems to be
that way unless it concerns someone with a lot of success," she
wrote.

The self-described Jewish grandmother, Yaffa Schlesinger of
Forest Hills, N.Y., sent a short postcard summing up the case as
"rape hysteria."

"History will be your judge. Do not destroy Kobe Bean Bryant,"
she wrote.

Emily Consiglio of Prescott Valley, Ariz., said Bryant's accuser
should not have socialized with guests, especially famous ones.

The letters also included allegations of racism. A copy of a
story about the Bryant case was sent with the words "All black
people are LIARS!" typed on top. It was not signed.

Another letter, signed "Jesus Christ, the Black Messiah,"
alleged that Bryant was being targeted because he is black. Last
week, a white supremacist group cited the case after leaving fliers
around this mountain town telling whites not to have sex with
blacks.

If Gannett receives letters from Eagle County residents, Pozner
and Denver criminal defense lawyer Craig Silverman said defense
lawyers could possibly use them to show the effect of publicity in
the case if they ask for the trial to be moved.

No such letters were included in those released to the public.

Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Mark
Hurlbert, said letters that discuss the details of the case or
provide evidence would not be released. She would not say whether
any such letters have been received.

Gannett has forwarded all the letters he has received to both
the district attorney and Bryant's lawyers to remain fair to both
sides, Flannigan said.

"As long as this case is kept in the public eye, people are
going to feel a need to express their opinions," she said.