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Bryant case dismissed

Bret Hartman/Vail DailyKobe Bryant leaves the Eagle County Justice Center Monday after the third day of jury selections.
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EAGLE – About 10:30 p.m. June 30, 2003, Kobe Bean Bryant, a married man with a baby daughter, invited a pretty young woman into his hotel suite. Only those two people know what happened in that room, that night.And so it will remain.District Attorney Mark Hurlbert dropped the case Wednesday evening, after the young woman said she was unable to continue. She took no money, but after 14 months she said she’d taken enough of everything else and informed prosecutors she was done with the criminal case. She’d endured constant harassment, death threats, and one of her counselors was even being investigated by the FBI for trying to sell her counseling file.Last Friday, sources said, came the final straw. A jury questionnaire was leaked to a Denver television station before the jurors had it. Along with her name on that questionnaire, three times, were the names, addresses and telephone numbers of more than 120 people associated with the case. By itself it’s not much. But for the young Eagle woman, the sum of her ordeal is greater than its individual parts.On Wednesday District Judge Terry Ruckriegle dismissed the criminal case, and charges against Bryant cannot be refiled.”My client’s desire is to see an end to this very, very difficult period of her life,” said her attorney, John Clune. “The difficulties are unimaginable. The list is beyond belief … The hardships are staggering.”In a prepared statement, Bryant said, “Although this past year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure … I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”The end came early Wednesday evening after an afternoon of whirlwind closed-court negotiations. Wednesday’s docket had finished around 12:30 p.m. when the last of the jurors were questioned. A pool of 174 Eagle County residents was ordered to report at 8:30 a.m. today, for jury questioning in open court.The question that matters most, “What happened in that room that night,” will not be answered in criminal court. The civil case will continue.”If anyone paying attention to the case had any idea what one week in the life of my client’s life is like, they would be astounded, as I have been astounded,” said Clune.

The move comes on the heels of Tuesday’s defense motion to dismiss the case. Bryant’s defense attorneys said in their motion that prosecutors withheld a medical report they say would exonerate their client.In agreeing with the motion to dismiss, Bryant’s defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, again said her client has done nothing wrong, has pleaded not guilty to the felony sexual assault charge against him, and he pleased to see this “long and painful process” come to an end.”We firmly believe that if this had gone to trial, we would have received a fair trial from a fair and impartial jury of Eagle County residents,” said Mackey.Ruckriegle praised his court staff and took full responsibility for the mistakes made in releasing the alleged victim’s name.”The impact on the alleged victim and her family are very real, but the impact is not limited to the parties,” said Ruckriegle. “This community has felt the impact of this case, as has this court and the 5th Judicial District.”Ruckriegle pointed out that in the case’s 14 months, it has generated 44 files, 800 pleadings, Eagle County’s largest jury call with 999 summonses, 174 jurors ready for further questioning, and defense and prosecuting attorneys ready to do battle. All they needed was an alleged victim, he pointed out, and that they no longer had.”This will, of course, always leave a question in the minds of everyone, as several of the jurors have stated, that only two people know what happened,” said Ruckriegle.

Before he granted the prosecution’s motion, Ruckriegle said the law requires him to ask it anyone had any evidence that their interests, or the interests of the community would be “jeopardized” if he dismissed the case.In a courtroom packed with media and local residents, no one did.Afterward, as dusk fell, Hurlbert read a prepared statement in which he thanked the courts, his staff, the prosecution team, said the District Attorney’s Office would fight for crime victims, and said he still has confidence in the case and the alleged victim.”We admire the courage, strength and integrity the victim has displayed throughout the past year. She is truly an amazing person,” Hurlbert said.And then he and his staff left, as did almost everyone else. Less than an hour after Hurlbert finished, the television lights went dark and the courthouse grounds were largely deserted, leaving another stunning Rocky Mountain sunset as the evening’s star attraction. Associated Press photographer Peter Fredin, who’s been with the story since last summer, said it’s the natural order of things.”The backwash of today’s tumultuous events was heard an hour after Hurlbert left the podium, as the quiet sound of quiet of normalcy slowly began to seep back in to Eagle and Eagle County,” said Fredin.



How Wednesday’s dismissal came to beNoon: The last prospective juror is questioned, and everyone leaves, thinking they’re done for the day. Nothing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.2 p.m. Bryant’s local defense attorney Terry O’Connor pops up at the office of the alleged victim’s attorney, John Clune, to talk. Clune is hot-footing back from Avon where he was dealing with a matter in municipal court. While O’Connor is there, he talks with Lin Wood, the alleged victim’s other attorney in the civil case filed in federal court.2:30 p.m. O’Connor arrives at the Eagle County courthouse, about the same time as Bryant’s lead attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon.2:45 p.m. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Deputy District Attorney Gregg Crittenden stride into Courtroom Two. They appear red-faced and upset.3:30 p.m. Lin Wood and John Clune arrive at the courthouse.3:50 p.m. Prosecutors Ingrid Bakke and Dana Easter walk into Courtroom Two.4:30 p.m. The District Attorney’s entire staff appears outside the courtroom.5 p.m. The alleged victim’s parents arrive at the courthouse. The district attorney’s staff shields them from the television and still camera stationed in the hallway, as they make their way up the hall and into Courtroom Two.5:10 p.m. Dana Easter leaves Courtroom Two. She stops in the hallway to quietly thank the District Attorney’s staff for all their hard work and dedication, then heads to the District Attorney’s office in the next building.5:45 p.m. An open hearing begins in Courtroom Two, where Hurlbert tenders a motion to dismiss the case to District Judge Terry Ruckriegle.6:12 p.m. After hearing statements from Hurlbert that the prosecution remains confident in its case, but cannot go on without the alleged victim who is unable to continue, from Mackey that she remains confident in the people of Eagle County to provide a fair trial and render a fair and impartial verdict, Ruckriegle thanks his staff, takes full responsibility for mistakes made by the court staff, thanks them for their hard work under intense scrutiny and pressure, and grants Hurlbert’s motion to dismiss.6:20 p.m. Kobe Bryant’s statement is distributed to the media, in which he apologizes to the alleged victim, her family and the people of Eagle, saying “After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even hearing her testify in person, I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” Curiously, Bryant’s statement is distributed by Lin Wood, who is suing Bryant in federal court.6:35 p.m. Hurlbert reads a prepared statement to the media, saying “Today justice is sadly interrupted. The casualty of this interruption is a brave young woman who was grievously hurt.”6:50 p.m. Hurlbert finishes, takes no questions, and leaves.7:15 p.m. The press area is deserted. On this day, terrorists take hostages in a Russian elementary school. A dozen Nepalese hostages are taken, and there are riots in the streets of Kathmandu. The sun sets. The world turns.Randy Wyrick writes for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at rwyrick@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado


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