Bryant pleads ‘not guilty’
As always, Kobe Bryant’s first step to the goal was strong.
Bryant, flanked by his defense attorneys Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, took three steps from the defendant’s table to the podium in the middle of the courtroom and stood tall as he held his hands together in front of him and answered the first questions posed directly since he was ordered to stand trial.
“Do you understand the charges?” asked District Judge Terry Ruckriegle.
“Yes sir,” answered Bryant, bending his head slightly to the left toward the microphone.
“How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?” asked Ruckriegle.
“Not guilty,” answered Bryant.
Bryant stands charged with raping a 19-year-old Eagle woman on June 30, 2003, in Room 35 of the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.
Bryant says she consented to sex.
She says she was raped.
A jury will decide.
The alleged victim’s father and mother were in the courtroom, in the first row of the gallery on the prosecution side. Her father’s gaze did not leave Ruckriegle while the judge was reading the charge against Bryant ” felony sexual assault, what used to be called forcible rape.
Bryant and his attorneys had said they didn’t need to hear the charges, but Ruckriegle read them anyway. Defendants waive that right every day, explained Denver defense attorney Lisa Wayne, and every day judges read them anyway.
After Bryant entered the courtroom around 1:30 p.m., he sat at the defendant’s table, his hands in front of him with his fingers intertwined. He exchanged pleasantries with a sheriff’s deputy positioned at the front of the courtroom; they both laughed softly. It was the only change in his expression the entire afternoon.
As the minutes ticked away and Bryant waited to tell the judge he is not guilty, Ruckriegle disposed, bit by bit, with the business of the case. Attorneys tried to convince Ruckriegle what law should be applied and how, and who should be called what. By their names? By their titles (defendant? victim? alleged victim? complaining witness?). What information should the jury hear about the defendant? Or the alleged victim? Should the law be thrown out entirely?
To some in the gallery it might appear tedious. But attorneys battling over seemingly endless motions are preparing the battlefield. They’re a little like shooting drills. If you want to win you take a thousand jump shots a day, every day. And do them right, every time.
While Ruckriegle was listening to arguments, a television camera was slid quietly into the back of the courtroom to broadcast Bryant’s arraignment and plea to the world. A still photographer had been posted at the back door, since the public was allowed into the courtroom at 1:30 p.m. He waited an hour before he was allowed to pick up his camera, recording the event at the front of the room.
Ruckriegle has not tipped his hand about allowing cameras in his courtroom for the trial. It’s possible, said Denver defense attorney Craig Silverman, that this could be the last televised images of Bryant in court.
When it was over and Ruckriegle had recessed the case until 8:30 a.m. May 27, Bryant followed Mackey down the center aisle and out of the courtroom. He was driven to the Eagle County airport, where he boarded a private jet, flying from Eagle to Los Angeles for a big playoff basketball game, from one court to another, as the surreal cliche has come to be real in this bizarre NBA season ” one where he plays-works and lives, the other where his future will be decided.
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