Bryant’s accuser’s family in court
This was Bryant’s first appearance at the Eagle County Justice Center before the judge who will preside over his trial.
For the first time since the case started in June, the parents of the alleged victim, a 19-year-old Eagle woman, were in the courtroom, along with two brothers and a cousin, prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said. The family sat in the front seat with John Clune, the alleged victim’s attorney.
Bryant’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, waived the formal reading of the charges against Bryant and the penalty he faces if convicted – four years to life in prison and 20 years to life on probation.
Bryant, 25, who on Wednesday night played with the Lakers in Los Angeles, sat silently by Mackey and his other defense attorney, Hal Haddon. He never looked in the direction of the alleged victim’s family. This was the first time the alleged victim’s family have seen the NBA star in person, Flannigan said.
“The family came today to show support for her,” Flannigan said after the hearing. “They want people to recognize there is a victim. They were also happy to see the victim’s advocates who attended the hearing. It took a lot of courage on their part to be there.”
Twelve victim’s advocates sat in Courtroom One for the 10-minute hearing.
The family, who declined to comment, left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Mackey said the defense team decided to follow the court’s usual procedure and not enter a plea Thursday.
“”I fully advised my client of the charge against him and the possible penalty,” she said.
Ruckriegle set a pretrial hearing for Dec. 19 and another for Jan. 23 to settle various motions, including whether records from an Eagle-area rape crisis center should be given to the defense and whether to investigate possible leaks from the defense attorneys to the media.
Attorneys on both sides told the judge they would need two to three weeks for a trial. The judge said his staff would begin looking at potential dates.
Prosecutors and court officials had not expected Bryant to enter a plea until his arraignment.
“I don’t expect an arraignment before several motions hearings happen,” Flannigan said. After a formal plea, state law requires the trial must be scheduled within six months unless Bryant waives his right to a speedy trial – a decision a judge could reject.
Jim Fahrenholtz, a defense attorney and former prosecutor in Eagle, said he was surprised District Attorney Mark Hurlbert did not press for a trial date, since sexual assault cases get priority.
“I’m not surprised he didn’t enter a plea, but I’m surprised the prosecution didn’t want to fast track the case,” Fahrenholtz said. “It seems the case has slowed down.”
The trial, Fahrenholtz said, might not start until May or even July, which would be after the end of the NBA season.
Flannigan said the district attorney isn’t concerned with the pace of the case.
“This is a process decided by the judge and the attorneys,” Flannigan said.
Karan Salaz of the Office of the State Court Administrator said she anticipates a large number of motions.
“Some will be taken care of without a hearing,” she said. “Others may not be open to the public.”
Hurlbert also indicated at the hearing he will try to keep a defense expert out of the laboratory when Colorado Bureau of Investigation experts test unidentified evidence in the case. Ruckriegle said the tests must be completed in 30 days and that Bryant’s attorneys must be notified before any tests that could destroy evidence.
Fahrenholtz said such evidence could include blood, semen and pubic hair – part of what he called “the rape kit.”
Flannigan said she doesn’t know if Bryant will attend the next hearing. Ruckriegle left Bryant’s $25,000 bail unchanged.
This was Bryant’s third appearance at the Justice Center after he was charged with sexually assaulting the young woman, an employee of the Lodge at Cordillera, where he stayed before undergoing knee surgery in Vail. The alleged victim says Bryant grabbed her by the neck and raped her in his hotel room. Bryant says the sex was consensual.
“”We are here to remind everyone to treat this sexual assault case as a serious crime,” said Robin Finegan, of the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance. “We want people to know there’s a real human being with real pain and tears in this case. There are families whose lives have been ripped apart … .”
Finegan also criticized a supermarket tabloid for recently printing the victim’s name and photograph and Bryant’s attorneys for repeatedly using her name during last month’s preliminary hearing.
The alleged victim’s parents have been seriously considering safety issues after that publication, Flannigan said.
“(The alleged victim) is doing well,” she added, but declined to comment on her whereabouts.
Before the hearing began, about a dozen people rallied outside the courthouse in support of Bryant’s accuser.
Amid the throng of reporters and photographers, Andy Sandoval was among those waiting in the hallways of the Justice Center Thursday morning. Because of scheduling conflicts, court officials couldn’t clear the dockets in the courthouse’s two other courtrooms where business continued as usual, unlike the previous two hearings.
“We didn’t know (Bryant) was going to be here,” said Sandoval, 20, of Avon, as he waited to be arraigned by Eagle County Judge Fred Gannett.
“I’d like to see him, but I need to go back to work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Trial could last three weeks
By Veronica Whitney
A possible three-week sexual assault trial would be something unheard of in Eagle County, says Jim Fahrenholtz, a defense attorney and former prosecutor in Eagle.
At Kobe Bryant’s first hearing before the judge who will preside over his sexual assault trial, attorneys on both sides told the judge they would need two to three weeks for a trial.
“I can’t recall a murder trial in Eagle County that has lasted more than two weeks,” said Fahrenholtz, who has been an attorney in Eagle County for about 20 years.
Krista Flannigan, spokeswoman for District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, said the trial could take three weeks, considering the evidence and the amount of motions that will be filed.
Fahrenholtz also said he doesn’t anticipate a change of venue.
“I think (the defense attorneys) like what they’re hearing in this town,” he said.
The defense team has commissioned two telephone polls of Eagle County residents to measure opinions about the case among potential jury members.
If there is a request for a change of venue, that will not come too soon, Fahrenholtz added.
“It doesn’t need to be filed until they’re selecting a jury and they get responses that show they might not get a fair trial,” he said.
The last trial that was moved from Eagle County was seven years ago and it was sent to Georgetown in Clear Creek County, Fahrenholtz said.
When changing venue, the judge could pick anywhere in his judicial district. The 5th Judicial District consists of Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties.
“It could be in Georgetown and that could be a nightmare for the defense because Clear Creek County has even a smaller population of blacks,” Fahrenholtz said.
Legal analysts say the trial might not start until May or even July.
What lies ahead in Kobe Bryant’s case
Here are Some of the issues expected to be discussed at the Dec. 19 pretrial hearing:
Medical records – The defense has asked to see the alleged victim’s medical records from several hospitals and a clinic, including one where she was taken last year after police at the University of Northern Colorado said she was a danger to herself. Prosecutors, attorneys for the woman and attorneys for the hospitals say such records are protected under state and federal privacy laws and the woman has not waived her confidentiality rights.
Counseling records – The defense wants to see notes taken by worker at a rape crisis center during an interview with the alleged victim. A county judge turned down that request, but the request is expected to be settled by the trial judge. Prosecutors say the notes are confidential.
Media leaks – Prosecutors want a judge to decide whether defense attorney Hal Haddon violated a gag order, claiming he gave case information to an acquaintance, retired local Judge William Jones. The New York Daily News published a story in October quoting Jones as saying that another man’s semen was found in underwear worn by the alleged victim before that information was revealed in the preliminary hearing. Haddon has denied giving details to Jones and asked for an investigation into leaks from the District Attorney’s Office.