Show-cause inquiry ruffles feathers |

Show-cause inquiry ruffles feathers

Cliff Thompson

In the maelstrom following basketball star Kobe Bryant’s arrest, an inquiry about securing county legal services to represent the Eagle County sheriff in a show-cause hearing versus the district attorney has added a little more fuel to the mix.It also has county officials scrambling to distance themselves from the issue.Bryant was arrested July 4, on suspicion of sexual assault of a 19-year-old employee of the Lodge at Cordillera. That arrest sparked controversy both because of its celebrity status and its process. Sheriff Joe Hoy bypassed District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and instead had a Clear Creek County judge review the evidence prior to the arrest. That judge subsequently sealed records to “protect the rights of the accused.”Hurlbert has held off on whether to file charges, pending receipt of physical evidence analysis, including DNA samples, from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He said he expects to receive the analysis this coming week.Relations between the departments have been strained in the last year with heavy turnover in the District Attorney’s Office, which has hampered some court cases. Sheriff’s officers have been overheard describing the DA as a “pussy.”Relations were further strained when Bryant was arrested without the knowledge of the district attorney, who had assured Bryant’s lawyers that no action would be taken until after the Fourth of July weekend.Both Hurlbert and Hoy are new at their jobs. Hoy was elected sheriff in November, and Hurlbert was appointed in December by the governor.The latest inquiry into legal services – viewed in some circles as yet another attempt to end-run the district attorney – was made Wednesday by a member of the Sheriff’s Office.Hoy hotly denied that the inquiry ever happened.”No one from my office made an inquiry to request a show-cause hearing,” he said. “I did not authorize it. We didn’t even think of it.”Some observers close to the case said they believe the inquiry may have been made without Hoy’s knowledge.But County Administrator Jack Ingstad acknowledged that Thursday the county recommended the Sheriff’s Office use the Denver law firm of Hall & Evans, which the county has used for special circumstances in the past. That keeps the county out of a minefield of conflicts between two departments it supports financially.”We wanted to stay neutral in case there is a disagreement between the DA and sheriff on how to proceed (with the Bryant case),” said Ingstad. “We fund both the sheriff and the DA.””I won’t deny it (the inquiry) happened,” said one county official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We support both offices, and we’re not going to take sides. We’re not getting involved in any battle, and we’re not taking sides.”News of the inquiry blindsided Hurlbert, who is awaiting the physical evidence test results before deciding on what if any charges to file against Bryant.A show-cause hearing is a request for legal justification for a course of action. What it could be used for in the Bryant case is speculative because to date no such order has been requested. It has reached only the inquiry stage.Hoy’s office also has been using the law firm for advice on how to handle some of the other legal questions in the case, such as when and if to release the booking mug shot of Bryant, which the Sheriff’s Office released Friday afternoon.In the blizzard of stories that followed Bryant’s arrest, the DA and sheriff have been bruised in the court of public opinion.Hoy seemed to extend a public olive branch to the district attorney.”The DA is in the middle of a firestorm; he’s getting a lot of heat,” Hoy said. “People need to back off on him so he can do his job right.”Of course, the most pressure on the District Attorney’s Office came from the sheriff’s decision to arrest Bryant without informing the district attorney and before Hurlbert had begun examining the case to determine whether charges were merited.Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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