Kobe’s attorneys say he’s innocent
Eagle County authorities released Los Angeles Laker guard Kobe Bryant on $25,000 bond Friday after they issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of felony sexual assault on a 19-year-old woman, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday.
Bryant, 24, was in Eagle County last week, reportedly for knee surgery by a local orthopedist, and stayed at The Lodge at Cordillera in Edwards, where the incident allegedy occurred, sources said.
Local authorities said the alleged assault occurred Monday, June 30. The allegations of sexual assault were filed with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.
Bryant’s attorneys and his agent released a written statement in which they asserted Bryant’s innocence, and called the Sheriff’s office action “biased and unfair.”
“We are confident that upon the completion of an unbiased investigation, Mr. Bryant will be cleared of any criminal misconduct,” said the statement by Bryant’s attorneys. “The actions of the Sheriff’s Office are biased and unfair.”
Bryant turned himself in at the sheriff’s detention facility in Eagle on Friday and posted a bond of $25,000, authorities said.
Sources close to the investigation said physical evidence exists to link Bryant to the allegations.
In a Sheriff’s Office statement released Sunday, authorities said that after interviews with local witnesses and a review of physical evidence, investigators met with representatives for District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and concluded they had enough evidence for the felony sexual assault count.
But Hurlbert told the Vail Daily Sunday night he hadn’t made a decision on whether to file charges and had not yet seen the arrest report.
“I don’t know yet whether I’ll file charges,” Hurlburt said in a telephone interview from his home. “I need to review the report, review the evidence.”
While Hurlburt refused to say the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office jumped the gun in issuing an arrest warrant for Bryant, he did say Sheriff Joe Hoy and his department did not follow the normal operating procedure.
He said the Sheriff’s Office asked a judge for an arrest warrant instead of requesting one through his office, the usual practice.
Sources close to the investigation also said Bryant is now back in California.
Reports of the allegations first arose Tuesday as tips that an investigation was ongoing. Both Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy and Hurlburt refused to comment at that time. The Vail Daily decided not to report on the allegations until official action was taken in the case.
Judge Russell Granger ordered that the case be sealed to the public, meaning few if any new details would be released.
Eagle County authorities said that Bryant was cooperative during the investigation and remains cooperative.
In a statement released Sunday night by Bryant’s attorneys Harold A. Haddon and Pamela Robillard Mackey, and his agent, Robert Pelinka, they said Bryant is innocent and expects to be completely exonerated.
“Mr. Bryant fully cooperated with the investigation by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office,” they said in the statement. “No charges have been filed. Although the Sheriff’s Office can obtain an arrest warrant, only the District Attorney’s Office can file charges. We are hopeful that the investigation will continue with unbiased investigators.”
Bryant’s attorneys said they were assured last Thursday by the District Attorney’s Office that the investigation was ongoing and that no action would be taken until today at the earliest.
“We were told that the matter was under consideration by the District Attorney’s Office but that there was insufficient information to issue a warrant or to file charges,” they said. “The District Attorney’s Office stated to us that more time was needed to complete and analyze the investigation before any decisions were made.”
Bryant’s attorneys said the District Attorney’s Office then notified the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office that no action was to be taken on the matter over the holiday weekend.
“Contrary to the direct instruction of the District Attorney’s Office, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office sought and obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Bryant,” they said in the statement. “This action illustrates the complete bias of the Sheriff’s Office, the law enforcement agency charged with investigating the allegations against Mr. Bryant and searching for the truth.”
Bryant, an NBA All-Star each year since 1998 who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight championships from 2000 to 2002, is a leading advertising pitchman nationally, thanks to a squeaky clean image.
Attempts to reach Bryant directly for comment were not successful.
“These allegations are completely out of character of the Kobe Bryant we know,” Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “For the seven years he’s been with us, he has been one of the finest young men we’ve known and a wonderful asset to both our team and our community.
“”However, since this is a legal matter being handled by the authorities in Colorado, we must refrain from further comment at this time.”
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league had no immediate comment.
Bryant was the NBA’s second-leading scorer last season, averaging a career-best 30 points a game. He scored 40 or more points in nine straight games in February and also had career-high averages of 6.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists while playing in each of the Lakers’ 82 games.
The Lakers were eliminated from the Western Conference semifinals by the San Antonio Spurs, ending Los Angeles’ run of three straight NBA championships.
Bryant underwent shoulder surgery on June 12 in New York. The Lakers expect he’ll be ready by the start of training camp in October.
He was named MVP of the 2002 All-Star Game after getting 31 points. He has the record as being the young All-Star in the NBA. posting 18 points and 6 rebounds in the 1998 game in New York.
He also was the youngest player to debut in the NBA, at the age of 18 years, two months and 11 days.
As a high school student, he was selected by USA Today and Parade Magazine as National High School Player of the Year.
Bryant married Vanessa Laine in April 2001. Bryant and his parents recently mended a rift that developed when he became engaged to Laine when she was an 18-year-old high school student.
Vanessa gave birth to their first child, Natalia Diamante Bryant, in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.