Eagle residents: Good riddance | VailDaily.com

Eagle residents: Good riddance

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE – Eagle residents and others reacted with relief, and some anger, at the end of the criminal case against Kobe Bryant.”I want my tax money back!” Kim Zutavern said at the Broadway Bistro. “It’s been a waste of time, effort and money on the county’s part.”Some, like longtime Eagle resident John Oleson, said Bryant shouldn’t have been charged in the first place. Enjoying a beer at the Brush Creek Saloon, Oleson, who was set to appear in court as part of Thursday’s 174-person jury pool, said he told interviewers Monday that he’d basically made up his mind about the case. “I think he’s innocent, and he shouldn’t have been charged in the first place,” he said.Fellow saloon patron Stella Landry said the alleged victim may indeed have been raped. But, she said, prosecutors and the courts “made a series of stupid mistakes. She may have been raped, but there wasn’t a chance they were going to prove it,” Landry said.Another resident wondered what took so long. “I’m not surprised, but I am surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” retired District Judge Bill Jones said as he was leaving the saloon.Outside Mi Pueblo restaurant, Eagle business owner Bob Matthews said he wondered if District Attorney Mark Hurlbert didn’t in some ways see the ultimate futility of the case.”I think inevitably, the DA didn’t have much to look forward to,” Matthews said.And, as has been the case since charges were first filed, the alleged victim came in for criticism.”I think she was full of it,” Jennifer Chaplin said.Local law enforcement came in for its share of criticism, too.At the Broadway Bistro, Eagle attorney Bruce Carey said he was livid the case got as far as it did, only to be dropped.”They had an obligation to proceed, with or without her consent,” Carey said. “If they truly believed a crime was committed, they should have continued. If they didn’t, then she lied and should have been prosecuted.”Others pointed the finger where the case started, in the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.”I think the sheriff is responsible for this fiasco,” Brush Creek manager Daryl Pennington said. He was a new sheriff, trying to pad his arrest record.” A big case with lots of media attention would have been a good launching pad for a re-election run, he added.On the subject of elections, only one person would comment on whether the Bryant case should cost Hurlbert his job. Hurlbert is up for election Nov. 2. When asked, most people responded with a shrug. But Mi Pueblo bartender Liz Patterson said the case won’t affect her vote in November. “I don’t think it will affect who you vote for,” Patterson said. “You vote for a person based on their beliefs.”Whatever happens in November, a lot of Eagle residents believe they’ll be glad when the media horde is finally gone.Eagle mom Michelle Curran was on the lawn of the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, trying to sell raffle tickets to benefit the Vail Mountain School scholarship fund in an attempt, she said, to get a little back.”The press has impacted our community, we’d like to get a little impact from them for the better,” Curran said. Before the court hearing at which the charges against Bryant were dropped, Curran said she was looking forward to the day the case would be gone.”I’m tired of them talking so badly about Eagle County,” she said. “They portrayed us so negatively.”Mary Lou Gerard, owner of the Strawberry Patch, said she was happy to hear about the end of the case, too. “It’s great, actually,” Gerard said. “I’m just over it.”Scott Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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