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Cordillera bellman well trusted

by Randy Wyrick

Late Monday evening, June 30, Bob Pietrack was working away as the bellman at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, waiting for his shift to end so he could go home.

Then an attractive 19-year-old woman walked into the lobby after leaving Kobe Bryant’s room. She told Pietrack what had just allegedly happened. Soon enough, if the case goes to trial, she’ll testify to the world. Bryant said the two had consensual sex; she reported to the authorities the next day that she had been raped.

When the woman came out of the hotel room, she put herself in Pietrack’s hands. Ask dozens of people about him, and the answers are all the same. She was in good hands.

“If I could pick someone for my daughter to marry, I’d pick him,” said long-time family friend Tiffany Eaton Buckner.

“He has the highest character of anyone I know, of any age,” said Sherry Rochford, dean of alumni and development at Fort Lewis College in Durango, where Pietrack, 22, is entering his senior year.

Cry in the night

When Pietrack’s name surfaced as the bellman, as the “outcry witness” to whom the alleged victim immediately turned when she left Bryant’s room, the world began beating a path to his door.

“It’s going to be a nightmare for anyone trying to find dirt on Bob Pietrack,” said his college basketball coach, Bob Hofman, at Fort Lewis College. “Kobe Bryant’s investigators are trying to find everything they can about him. The problem they’ll have is they’re trying to find bad things, dirt, and there isn’t any.”

A private investigator working for Bryant, 25, showed up at Pietrack’s family home in Eagle at 7 a.m. Monday, July 7, just hours before the story broke. She had already been around town for a few days, asking about him. The first reporter rang the doorbell a few minutes later.

Both came looking for information. Both were politely rebuffed, as were the dozens who have followed.

It’s a gentlemanly art to tell someone “no comment” and have them feel grateful for it. Pietrack has that knack. One reporter was driving away before she realized he’d given her nothing but a disarming smile.

After the reporters came the nuts, who got his name from various Web sites. They called spewing invective and profanity, teaching anyone who picked up the phone that it’s not necessary to take hate speech seriously when it includes the word, “dude.” As for his reponse, Pietrack hasn’t talked to anyone – and won’t until he takes the witness stand.

He has made one public statement, in writing. This is it:

“I believe I have a civil duty to be honest and out of fairness to everyone involved, refrain from commenting on any knowledge I have about this situation. Therefore, I ask everyone to please respect this decision and my family’s privacy. Thank you.”

Long-term view

Pietrack is focused in a way that comes only from setting long-term goals and working relentlessly toward them.

“Most folks have a five-year plan,” said Buckner. “Bob has his whole life planned out.”

It’s one thing to decide you’re going to take advantage of your own gifts, whatever they are. It’s quite another to convince others to make the most of theirs.

“He doesn’t aspire to be an NBA player,” said Rochford. “He wants to help, to be a mentor.”

He wants to be a basketball coach.

That’s his dream. He’s chasing it methodically, in what might seem to some as a one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach.

He walked away from a full-ride baseball scholarship at North Idaho College to play college basketball at Fort Lewis College, where he has spent the last few years of his life building friendships and a foundation for his dreams.

When you’re a college athlete, and you compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, the road trips run down a long and winding road. Three hours is short, 15 hours isn’t uncommon. You play about two hours. You’re a rock band without the rock, but you do get to roll.

Married people should get to spend so much quality time together.

The friendships run deep from that period of life, when you’re all focused on a common goal, when you have the time.

His Fort Lewis teammates and coaches say he works harder than anyone else on the team, that he’s the best leader, the best motivator.

They say he wants to set a positive example.

He does.

To hear them tell it, Pietrack is a prosecutor’s dream.

To hear them tell it, he’s the defense team’s nightmare.

“If they (the prosecution) had the whole wide world to choose from, looking for someone they could have chosen to handle this with class and maturity, they could not have picked anyone better,” said Dona Guy, assistant athletic director at Fort Lewis College. “He’s the most respected athlete on campus and one of the most respected students.”

“I’ve never met a more honest person,” said college teammate and roommate Rob Gunkleman, who has complete confidence in Pietrack’s ability to stand up to the pressure of Bryant’s rape trial.

“He will tell it like it is. He won’t try to make it more or less than it is,” said Gunkleman. “When it’s his turn, he tells his story and you can either believe him or not. I think he’ll be just fine when he gets on the stand.”

Twist of fate

Pietrack was working hard at his summer job at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera to help pay his way through college, and that’s when he got caught up in all this.

He was taking a summer class at a local community college, trying to knock it out before the school year started. Because of that class he normally didn’t work Mondays. He learned on Friday, June 27, that the class would not transfer, so he dropped it and reported for work on Monday, June 30, the day Kobe came to town.

The young woman, also a college student home working for the summer, took Bryant on a tour of the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. The tour ended at Bryant’s room. The sordid tale did not.

Now the Los Angeles Lakers star, charged with class 3 sexual felony assault that could put him in prison for as long as life, is scheduled Oct. 9 for his preliminary hearing in Eagle County Court, at which a judge will decide whether there’s enough evidence to send him to the higher District Court to trial.

Pietrack, as a main witness, is about to be famous for a while. That’s fine, as long as it doesn’t interfere with his long-term goals.

“The thing about Bobby is that he won’t use this situation for his advantage,” said Gunkleman. “He just wants to do what’s right. Whether or not it’s difficult, or hard for him personally doesn’t seem to matter. That kind of integrity seems rare.”

At a Glance

Bob Pietrack’s Bio

– Graduated Eagle Valley High School, 1999.

– Attended North Idaho College on a baseball scholarship.

– Transferred to Fort Lewis College to pursue career choice as a basketball coach. Turned down second year scholarship offer from NIC to play basketball at Fort Lewis College as a walk-on.

– Dean’s List Award recipient at Fort Lewis.

– Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference All-Conference Academic Team.

– President of the Fort Lewis Student Athletic Advisory Committee.

– Fort Lewis College Ambassador Scholarship Award winner.

– Eight-time high school All State honors.

– Twice All State in three sports (football, basketball and baseball) in the same year.

– Colorado high school state basketball record holder for career assists (702).


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