Prosecution sets trial team in Bryant case
As Kobe Bryant’s rape trial draws nearer, prosecutors say they’ll stay with their current courtroom lineup.Ingrid Bakke, Dana Easter and Gregg Crittenden will lead most of the questioning during the trial, said District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, with Hurlbert still leading the team but not directly involved in the day-to-day proceedings.District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said this is nothing new. The other three have done most of the questioning during the closed pretrial hearings.”There has been so little in open court that it might not be apparent to the public and the media, but actually Ingrid and Dana have led the charge there,” said Flannigan. “That has always been the way it has been.”Each attorney handles different areas of the case in court. Flannigan said the profile each of the three carries during the trial will continue to evolve as state District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle hands down the rest of the rulings on the case’s major issues. Ruckriegle will soon rule whether Eagle County Sheriff’s investigators properly collected physical evidence from Bryant while they were interviewing him. Ruckriegle will also decide what, if any, of the alleged victim’s sexual activity should be heard by the jury.Hurlbert said the prosecution team’s composition was his decision alone and that he made it with the best interests of the people Eagle County and the wider Fifth Judicial District in mind.Hurlbert said the Aug. 27 trial date was a major factor in determining his level of courtroom involvement in the Bryant trial.”I have a duty to every citizen in the Fifth Judicial District – Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties,” said Hurlbert, “and if I maintain a high level of involvement in this case, I would be neglecting that duty.”Hurlbert said Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar’s office will continue to provide assistance to the prosecution as needed. The sheer volume of cases makes it impractical for Hurlbert to be directly involved, all day every day, said Flannigan.”The district attorney’s office prosecutes 12,000 cases a year and he is ultimately responsible for all of them,” said Flannigan. “He has a couple murder cases to prepare for and four counties to cover. There are even other cases in Eagle County to deal with.”Crittenden is Hurlbert’s chief deputy district attorney and is based in Eagle County. He has been involved in the case since charges were filed against Bryant. Bakke and Easter are deputy district attorneys on loan from the Boulder District Attorney’s Office and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office, respectively. Both have extensive experience in prosecuting sex assault cases and have been a part of the pre-trial proceedings since last fall.Former prosecutor Norm Early praised the decision, saying Hurlbert essentially was working two full-time jobs: running the district’s criminal prosecution efforts and prosecuting the Bryant case.He said when he was chief deputy district attorney in Denver, he tried 15 to 20 cases a year. As district attorney, Early said he personally tried four cases in 10 years.”The victim in the Bryant case is not the only constituent in the 5th Judicial District, and other constituents are being victimized on a daily basis, and they feel their cases are as important to them as the Bryant case is to that victim,” Early said.Bryant, 25, is scheduled to return to Eagle for a three-day hearing beginning July 19. He has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault and has said he had consensual sex with a teenage employee of the the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera where he stayed last summer.If convicted, Bryant faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.It is anticipated that jury selection could take up to a week and the trial could be concluded by the end of September.