- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

EAGLE, Colo. — Prosecutors need more time before deciding whether to bring charges against Kobe Bryant, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a resort near Vail last week.

“Sexual assault cases are extremely complex and sometimes it takes awhile to get through everything,” Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said yesterday. “It may be beyond the end of the week.”

Bryant may not be charged at all, the prosecutor said. Hurlbert refused to discuss details of the allegations against the five-time NBA All-Star, saying only that the reported victim was an adult.

“I have talked with her and she seems to be doing OK considering the circumstances,” Hurlbert said.

Officials at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in nearby Edwards said Bryant stayed there June 30-July 2.

Under Colorado law, sexual assault could range from fondling to rape.

The allegations against the Los Angeles Lakers’ guard made headlines nationwide, and dozens of reporters and camera crews descended on this mountain town about 100 miles west of Denver.

According to an arrest warrant, the 24-year-old Bryant attacked a woman June30. Authorities said only that the incident happened at a hotel, but a bellman at the upscale Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in nearby Edwards said Bryant was a guest there June30 and July1.

Bryant surrendered to authorities Friday and was released after posting $25,000 bond. Attorney Pamela Mackey said her client had been in Colorado for surgery on his right knee at Vail’s Steadman Hawkins Clinic.

“Mr. Bryant is innocent and expects to be completely exonerated,” Mackey said in a statement.

Mackey accused the sheriff’s office of “complete bias,” saying it ignored the wishes of the district attorney in obtaining the arrest warrant.

“We were told that the matter was under consideration by the district attorney’s office but that there was insufficient information to issue a warrant or to file charges,” she said.

Mackey did not return calls seeking elaboration.

At yesterday’s news conference, Hurlbert refused to address Mackey’s claims.

“What’s done is done,” said Hurlbert, standing a few feet away from Sheriff Joe Hoy, whose office is leading the investigation. “I’m not going to comment on whether it was prudent or not. A judge found probable cause.”

The sheriff’s office sought the arrest warrant from a judge instead of making the request through the district attorney, which is the usual practice. Only the district attorney’s office can file charges.

Hoy said his investigators learned of the incident last Tuesday and spent nearly 30 hours on the case before contacting Bryant. Defense attorneys were notified on July 3 and Bryant arrived in Colorado that day.

“There wasn’t any urgency. We felt we were doing the right thing for everyone involved,” Hoy said yesterday. “We wanted to give people the time to themselves to adjust” because of the holiday.

The Cordillera is a sprawling resort that shares heavily forested land above the town of Edwards with large private homes. The spa boasts a golf course, pools and a large equestrian center that stand in sharp contrast to the working-class roots of the town.

The case against Bryant unfolded yesterday as news of two other NBA players’ legal troubles became known.

Orlando Magic guard Darrell Armstrong was arrested after being accused of fighting with a female police officer outside a Florida nightclub, and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damon Stoudamire was accused of trying to pass through an airport metal detector with marijuana.

Bryant was the NBA’s second-leading scorer last season, averaging a career-best 30 points. He scored 40 or more points in nine straight games in February and had career-high averages of 6.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

Since entering the NBA straight from high school, Bryant has been feted as one the league’s greatest players. He was a star when Los Angeles won three consecutive titles from 2000 to ‘02 and he was the MVP of the 2002 All-Star Game.

Along with that determination, Bryant has often shown dignity and heart many fans feel are missing from other NBA stars.

When the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs by San Antonio, Bryant wiped away tears as he left the court. “I hate this feeling, I don’t ever want to feel it again,” he said.

Bryant speaks fluent Italian and has a camera friendly smile that’s helped him land television advertising campaigns. Last month, he signed an endorsement deal with Nike.

He married Vanessa Laine in April 2001. The two met on the set of a music video where Laine was working and got engaged while she was still in high school. Vanessa gave birth to their first child, Natalia Diamante Bryant, in January. Bryant wore his hospital ID bracelet in a game the day after his daughter was born.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the allegations were completely out of character for Bryant.

Former teammate Cedric Ceballos said he was shocked when he heard the news, thinking, “This can’t happen to him.”

David Carter, head of the Sports Business Group, said Bryant has a rare global appeal for marketers, but that the case could certainly hurt his image.

Carter also was surprised that a player with such a clean image off the court was at the center of the accusations.

“This reminded me of Magic Johnson’s AIDS announcement, knocked the wind out of everybody,” Carter said. “While this is still speculation, there’s the connection to the Lakers and the same feeling around town.”

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