Fri, Jul 25, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Kobe Bryant prepares his low-key legal dream team

AP , DENVER, COLORADO

Kobe Bryant's legal dream team consists of two low-profile attorneys with a client list ranging from JonBenet Ramsey's father to retired Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy and writer Hunter S. Thompson.

One of them, Pamela Mackey, knows the prosecutor well and the other, Hal Haddon, ran former Senator Gary Hart's 1988 presidential campaign.

Colleagues say they are well-respected across Colorado for a meticulous work ethic, and could prove a formidable obstacle for prosecutors trying to convict the Los Angeles Lakers superstar of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman.

"Nobody has a better success ratio," longtime Denver criminal defense attorney Robert McAllister said. "They'll leave no stone unturned. No avenue not driven down."

The 24-year-old Bryant is free on bail and is set to appear in court Aug. 6. He is charged with sexually assaulting the woman June 30 in his suite at the Lodge & Spa at the Cordillera in Edwards, about 160km west of Denver. Bryant says the sex was consensual.

His attorneys have shied away from the media, refusing interviews with the exception of two brief news conferences.

Mackey and Haddon know Colorado, its laws and what to expect in potential jurors, Loyola University Law School professor Laurie Levenson said.

"The last thing you want is to look like you rode into town with a bunch of city-slick lawyers, especially in a case that may hinge on credibility," she said. "They have to not only believe Kobe but really believe him through his lawyers."

During the prosecutor's news conference detailing the charge last week, Bryant released a statement saying he had committed adultery. His wife, Vanessa, issued her own statement, saying she would stand by her husband.

Two hours later, the couple joined their attorneys at a nationally televised news conference from Staples Center, where the Lakers play. There, Bryant declared his innocence and tearfully apologized to his wife.

"I thought the public relations maneuver last week was fairly brilliant," Levenson said. "I think these lawyers respect the fact that the community might not want a high-publicity case."

Both from the Midwest, Haddon, 62, and Mackey, 47, started their careers as public defenders.

Haddon has been in private practice in Denver since the mid-1970s. He represented John Ramsey during a Boulder investigation into the 1996 slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet. Charges were never filed.

"These are very politically connected attorneys in the community and these long-standing relationships pay off," said Lawrence Schiller, who researched the firm for a book he wrote about the slaying.

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