DA knew of an alleged overdose
When District Attorney Mark Hurlbert weighed all the factors in the case against Kobe Bryant, he was aware the Eagle County woman accusing Kobe Bryant of sexual assault had been under emotional stress and had ingested too much medication, losing consciousness.
Last Friday, he charged Bryant anyway.
Hurlbert, who Sunday and Monday again declined comment about the case, learned at least a week before of the problems the alleged victim had gone through, but still felt strongly enough about the evidence to charge Bryant with Class-3 felony sexual assault.
Hurlbert huddled with the alleged victim’s family the morning after he learned of the incident with pills, which friends said Monday were nonprescription.
Tricked into trusting?
A local teenager told a California newspaper this weekend that two months before allegations of sexual assault were leveled against Bryant, the woman making those allegations “overdosed” on pills and was rushed to a hospital, the result of a series of emotional upheavals she’d lived through in recent weeks.
“I think it was just a cry for help,” Lindsey McKinney, 18, told The Orange County Register.
McKinney said reporters from the Register woke her while she was sick, told her they had talked to several other local young people and were trying to nail down a few loose ends. When the story hit Sunday, McKinney was the primary source.
McKinney was quoted in the Register as saying she was visiting other friends one night when, at about 2 a.m., she learned from the woman’s ex-boyfriend the woman had “overdosed.” The Register quoted McKinney as saying she rushed to the woman’s Eagle home and found the woman incoherent, lethargic and seemingly drunk.
McKinney said the woman’s parents awoke and called 911. An ambulance responded and took the woman to a hospital, McKinney said.
Dispatch records regarding the incident are sealed. The Vail Daily has filed a petition with the court asking that they be opened.
Evidence or not?
The issue falls under reputation evidence, and credibility of a witness is always an issue, said local attorney Rohn Robbins, who is also arguing the open records case for the Vail Daily.
Robbins said Bryant’s defense attorneys will cling to anything that tends to undermine the credibility of his accuser.
“It’s usually relevant and may be admissible,” said Robbins.
While it matters in the court of public opinion, it may or may not matter in a court of law, however.
“Whether it can be admitted as evidence is under the broad discretion of the presiding judge,” said Robbins. “The judge must weigh how helpful it is, but also how prejudicial it is?”
That decision is likely to have ramifications far down the road.
“An appeal is essentially based on these kinds decisions a judge makes during the course of a trial,” said Robbins, who was a appellate attorney in California.
Robbins said the judge must determine not only if it’s admissible, but also if it’s true.
“If they say this girl had a drug overdose and it’s not true, they have libelled her,” said Robbins. “If it’s not true, she potentially has the right to seek recourse on whoever published it.”
Robert Pugsley, a criminal law professor at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles told the Register the alleged overdose is a “bonanza for the defense and a land mine for prosecution.”
According to the complaint, Bryant, 24, forced himself to have sex with the woman against her will June 30 at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, where the woman worked at the front desk and where Bryant had been a guest from June 30 to July 2.
Coverage sinking fast
Some Eagle County locals said they were “aghast” at how quickly coverage of the story had become sleazy.
“This is a feeding frenzy, and the negativity that has unfolded makes us feel bad for the family,” said Bob Lombardi, father of one of the alleged victim’s best friends. “Our hearts go out to the family. Tons of people here believe in them. We hope they hang tough.”
Lombardi, who has published newspapers and magazines all over Colorado and is active in the Colorado Press Association, said an issue like that, in such a sensationalized story, is bound to create a media explosion.
“I feel badly for her family with everything they’ve had to deal with, and now this,” he said. “
When told of Web sites that listed the alleged victim’s personal information, and misidentified another Eagle County woman as the victim, Lombardi said, “I’m disgusted, but not surprised.”
Janine D’Anniballe of the Boulder chapter of the Movement to End Sexual Assault said the issue is unfortunate, but that one has nothing to do with the other.
“They are mutually exclusive issues,” she said. “It’s not uncommon to have a client call who has “stuff’ in her past. Most of us have “stuff’ in our past.
“One has nothing to do with the other.”
D’Anniballe said the backlash is unfortunate, and unfortunately not uncommon in high-profile cases like this one.
“It’s like people are saying, “Let’s see what dirt we can come up with because we don’t want to believe someone so nice and good-looking could do this,” said D’Anniballe. “If Kobe could do this, anyone could do this. People don’t want to believe that.”