Echoes of O.J. in Kobe Bryant Case?

One of the key investigators in the Kobe Bryant rape case was also a key figure when the Eagle County, Colo., sheriff's office was successfully sued for racial profiling.

Bryant is charged with sexual assault for allegedly raping a 19-year-old woman. She worked at a lodge where he was staying when he was in Colorado for knee surgery in late June.

The Los Angeles Lakers guard, who is married and has an infant daughter, has admitted committing adultery with the woman but insisted the sex was consensual. He will be formally advised of the charges against him on Aug. 6 and is free on $25,000 bond.

The revelation that one of the lead investigators in the case was also a key figure in a racial profiling case could provide the defense with an argument that the investigation of Bryant, a prominent black athlete, was carried out unfairly, as the defense argued in the trial of O.J. Simpson.

"I think it's explosive evidence and I'm shocked that in fact the authorities in Eagle County had this individual and these people involved in this case," said ABCNEWS legal contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, a former prosecutor. "This is shades of Mark Fuhrman and the O.J. Simpson case."

"If that investigator and the people involved in the profiling, they will be cross examined about it and it will be brought out in front of the jury, they saw them in the beginning trying to assert this was a racially biased case," she said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "Just the hint of it is damaging to the prosecution."

The Eagle County sheriff's office was successfully sued in 1995 for racial profiling of African-American and Hispanic motorists passing through the county on Interstate 70. There were 400 claims of profiling, and the department eventually paid $800,000 in the settlement.

Defense attorneys could use this to argue for change of venue or as part of their defense, wherever the trial is held, though legal analyst Craig Silverman said that Bryant's attorneys may be reluctant to hit the issue too strongly, for fear of alienating the jury pool.

Sources familiar with the prosecution also confirmed to ABCNEWS that the district attorney is aware that there were no witnesses of any kind to the alleged sexual assault on June 30 at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. There were previous reports in the media that some hotel guests may have heard a struggle.

The Los Angeles Lakers guard learned Thursday that he will have to appear in a Colorado courtroom next week to hear the felony sexual assault charge filed against him.

Bryant's Denver-based lawyers had asked that he be allowed to skip his appearance, arguing that taxpayer money would be saved because it would reduce the need for security in the high-profile case.

An Eagle County judge denied the request hours after the request was filed.

"It's vital for him. It's vital for us. It's where the process begins," Judge Fred Gannett told ABC affiliate KMGH.

A Public Need to Know?

Meanwhile, lawyers for the media continue to argue that Gannett unseal documents related to the case, including an arrest report that would provide more details about what happened on June 30, the night of the alleged attack.

Media lawyers argued that Bryant waived his right to privacy when he declared his innocence at a news conference in Los Angeles.

"The public has a need to know what the government is up to," said Chris Beal, an attorney representing the media.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have argued that the case records should be withheld because publicity could undermine Bryant's right to a fair trial.

"There's no great public safety concern in this case. It's strictly for entertainment, tabloid news. Oh my God, a superstar charged with a horrible crime," said Greg Crittendon, the deputy district attorney for Eagle County.

Gannett said he wouldn't rule on the records issue before Aug. 6, Bryant's next court appearance.

ABCNEWS affiliate KMGH in Denver contributed to this report.

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