Paper takes Eagle, Vail to court
Colorado Mountain News Media and the Vail Daily took legal action Monday to force the Eagle Police Department and the town of Vail to open some public records in a high-profile sexual assault case.
Vail Daily attorney Rohn Robbins filed a complaint and asked for a hearing in which Vail and the Eagle police would have explain why they have sealed dispatch records for a specific Eagle address. The request stems from allegations of sexual assault against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant by a 19-year-old Eagle County woman.
“The town of Eagle police department has refused in writing to disclose the information,” said Robbins. “The town of Vail has not refused, but has not produced the information.”
Robbins said that under the Criminal Justice Records Act, dispatch records should be available to the public. But acting Eagle Police Chief Gary Ward refused to make the records available after verbal and written requests. Ward also threatened to arrest a Vail Daily correspondent for trespassing if she didn’t leave Eagle police headquarters while making the request last week.
The records being sought would provide dispatch calls to the address of the alleged victim. The Daily asked for dispatch records for the last 12 months.
“The public has a right to know if there are questions as to the credibility of people making allegations in any criminal case,” Robbins said. “We have no reason to question the credibility of the alleged victim, but these records should be accessible.”
Robbins said the records being sought are not the same as records sealed by a judge as part of the criminal investigation. Robbins said the requested records should be available to the public.
In a written statement, town of Eagle attorney Ed Sands insisted that they are, in fact, part of the ongoing criminal investigation into the allegations against Bryant and can therefore be sealed along with the rest of the file.
Ward said he had already compiled the statistics for reports to the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office. Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell acknowledged two dispatches were made to the address.
Dispatch records must be provided within 72 hours, Robbins said. The Vail Daily made the request last Wednesday.
When Robbins accompanied a Vail Daily correspondent to Eagle police headquarters Thursday morning to pick up the records, Ward snapped at him, “Who the hell are you?” Ward then stormed into the back of the police headquarters, and slammed and locked a door behind him. That reaction came on the heels of Ward’s arrest threat the previous afternoon.
“I was disturbed by the response of the Eagle Police Department,” said Robbins.