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Authorities do alleged victim no favors

Don Rogers

Immediately after the strangest prelim in memory, anyone’s memory, the district attorney calls a press conference on the courthouse steps to declare he’s not about trying his case in the press.

Uh, huh.

Can anyone say strangulation expert, that intriguing line item that recently surfaced in the DA’s budget? Anyone notice the irony of the district attorney sailing right over to the cameras to declare his sole interest in bringing his case to a jury and only to a jury? Those starry-eyed teens last summer don’t appear to be the only ones caught in this bright siren’s song.



Meanwhile, the defense team has made no secret of its disdain for journalists or leaks, to the point of inspiring a sheriff-on-sheriff investigation of such that naturally turned up nothing.

But over the weekend between prelim sessions, a retired local judge made the then-astounding claim that someone else’s semen was discovered in the alleged victim at her rape examination. Seems the retired judge, who had nothing to do with this case, and Bryant attorney Hal Haddon had a little conversation. The team’s star cross examiner, Pamela Mackey, at the time was taking a torrent of criticism for her aggressive and highly suggestive approach.

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Of course these folks are playing to the press whenever they think it suits them. The court-ordered gag has slipped, if it ever was really in place. Sorry judge. Call it a consequence of trying to keep too many secrets in chambers.

Better in these cases to bring out the truth of the accusations early rather than goad the press into breaching the walls in the name of public interest. Some interest, eh?

How do you “responsibly” report that hair and semen in the panties the alleged victim wore to her rape examination came from someone other than confirmed lout Kobe Bryant? Oh, and the “consensual” underwear also contained blood from the alleged victim, just as the ones she wore during her encounter with Bryant did. It’s not clear whether the blood spot in the underwear she wore to the examination was fresher than the semen and hair, or menstrual.



All this just when you thought maybe the story in court would clean things up a bit. Hah! The story in court is far weirder than even the stuff on the street and in the Internet these past months.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert promises much more evidence to make his case. For his sake and his community’s ultimate confidence in him, I sure hope so.

The wags of late have made much of the apparent care he took in deciding to file the sexual assault charge against the spoiled superstar, and that of course he knew all this and still went ahead.

Unfortunately, I’m reminded of nothing so much as the joke of a sexual assault case that the jury practically laughed out of court in Breckenridge this past summer.

The District Attorney’s Office took on a case in which an alleged victim made an accusation five full months after going home from a bar with a guy – right about the time she was in some other trouble with the law, a drinking and driving citation. Seems the guy placed a finger in a tender spot as they slept together that night, she said, though they hugged warmly in front a household of witnesses the next morning and nothing more came of it for half a year. The prosecutors were hoping to show – without any evidence – that something had been slipped into one of the woman’s drinks that night and she didn’t have the capacity for consent to something the fellow said he didn’t do.

Whatever that case suggests about the judgment residing in the prosecutors office, “great care” doesn’t leap to mind.

I’m not seeing a lot of care in this case, either. I had hoped Sheriff Joe Hoy’s cowboying that brought the press streaming to town weeks before charges were fully weighed would be the end of the bumbling. Now I fear it’s only the beginning.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t rue the poetic justice for Bryant. He’s fully deserving of all this attention. This 6-6 brat has been living a a great big lie with his McDonald’s-fit wholesome image for celebrity-sick America. I believe his behavior June 30 at the Lodge at Cordillera might well have been criminal, too.

I just don’t think there’s a case the prosecutors can honestly prove.

Maybe they could get the evidence that sheds doubt on what appear to be light injuries thrown out before trial, relying on a perversion of rape shield law designed to protect an alleged victim’s reputation from unwarranted attack. But their evidence would then be based on the lie than it could only have come from Bryant. That’s justice?

We don’t get to just send Mr. Bryant to prison because we think he committed a crime.

Light injuries that can reasonably explained in other ways, an alleged victim whose actions that night sadly do leave room for question, no witnesses to the incident itself. What’s left besides the ambiguous statements of a married man who was still doped up from knee surgery and might not have been read his Miranda rights; a straight-shooting bellman who can only recount a story he was told but did not see; and the alleged victim herself, who all too obviously will be vulnerable under the stresses of cross examination on the stand?

I’m sure we’ll get the full, tragic show in a trial. For justice to be truly served, however, County Court Judge Fred Gannett ought to make the remarkable but wise decision to stop the case here.

Best buckle up now for the shipwreck to come in a few months, though. In addition to the crime Bryant is accused of inflicting on her, we have the potential sin of putting her through this ordeal for a case that has only the most remote chance of being proven beyond reasonable doubt.

So I’m left with real doubt that the authorities have this young woman’s best interests at heart.

They probably should have tied themselves to the mast in the beginning and sailed past these shoals, trusting more in the cold calculations of proving a case than the no-doubt powerful urge to give the woman her day in court.

I don’t think they did her any favors. It appears from this vantage that the first refrains of that siren’s song were already playing.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com


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