Prosecutor often talks about Kobe
FRISCO As the lead prosecutor in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert was in the national spotlight for 14 months, during which time he received death threats, two envelopes full of white powder designed to look like anthrax and two marriage proposals. He quickly had to learn how to handle the constant barrage of questions from local, state and national media looking for more information on the high-profile case against the basketball star, who was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old concierge from the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Eagle where he was staying in June 2003.We called it feeding the beast when youre giving the media information because there were a lot of times when it was absolutely insatiable, Hurlbert told a group gathered at Tuesdays Republican Women of Summit County meeting in Frisco.Even three years after he dismissed the case because the woman whos now married with a baby decided she didnt want to participate in a jury trial, it still generates plenty of interest. Hurlbert, the D.A. for Eagle, Summit, Clear Creek and Lake counties, gives presentations on his insights into the case to about 15 or 20 different groups around the state each year. He said he learned plenty of lessons from the experience, one of the biggest being looking at how to improve public relations.We got beat up in the media, Hurlbert said. We lost the media battle and I dont know how to win that.Even though Hurlbert hired a public information officer, whod worked on the Columbine school shooting and the Oklahoma City bombing trial, there needed to be more of a concerted effort to get the prosecutions message out, something the high-powered defense team did much better, he said.The frenzy began on the night of June 30, 2003, when Bryant checked into the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera while he was in the Vail Valley for knee surgery. The woman showed Bryant to his room and he reportedly asked her to come back to give him a tour of the property, which was part of the concierges normal duties, Hurlbert said.The woman told authorities she was sexually assaulted in Bryants room, after the tour. Two weeks later, Hurlbert announced he was filing one count of sexual assault against Bryant during a nationally televised press conference in front of hundreds of members of the media.After seeing that, my mom gave me a call and she said, Mark, I just saw you on TV and boy your hair is really receding, he joked.Months of intense media coverage followed, with up to 3,000 people associated with the media in town at one point the same number of people who live in Eagle.Reporters and camera operators followed Hurlbert to his office and watched the womans every move. Though the mainstream media didnt print the woman’s name, her identity was the worst kept secret in Eagle, Hurlbert said. At one point, her identity was mistakenly released on the state court Web site.Tabloids offered up money in exchange for information, paying someone in the woman’s therapy group $10,000 for details on the sessions and $10,000 to someone who snapped photos of the woman dancing at a bar in Canada.Worried his cleaning crew would be swayed by dollar figures, Hurlbert kept everything pertaining to the case locked in a file cabinet inside his office, which was also locked at all times.Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents monitored Hurlberts office for bugs and escorted him home at night. Bulletproof glass has since installed in the D.A.s office as a safety measure.Hurlbert estimates the case cost his office $700,000 to $800,000 to prosecute his office ran on a total budget of $2.3 million at the time compared with the $10 to $12 million the defense reportedly spent.Hurlbert dismissed the case on Sept. 1, 2004, in the middle of jury selection after the woman decided she didnt want to prosecute; a civil case was settled in 2005.I think that she just had enough, he said.