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Tabloid Town

Nickey Hernandez

News AnalysisA handful of high-priced solicitors stood before Eagle County Court Judge Fred Gannett last week to argue for and against the release of vile details in the Kobe Bryant rape case.The Fourth Estate whose ranks have bloated like the dead faces of Uday and Quasy Hussein since prosecutors charged Bryant with sexual assault made love to the Constitution, then claimed the public needed to know every nasty allegations of that tragic encounter.&quotTo quiet the press is to quiet the voice of the nation,&quot media lawyer and Vail Valley resident Rohn Robbins told the court as part of an eloquent speechThe horrific details, told to sheriff’s detectives by Kobe’s 19-year-old accuser, remain sealed in affidavits. For bottom-feeding journalists like the supermarket tabloid scum that offered a friend of the accused $12,000 for astory these descriptive words are the things of which dreams are made.But such accounts are also the stuff of nightmares for the accuser, who lives like a hermit, while whorish hordes of ravenous reporters poke into every aspect of her young life.Reporters have pestered her former boyfriend for a quote. He supposedly dumped her last winter, leading the teen-ager to down a fistful of pills in a rash suicide attempt.The boyfriend has remained silent so far, refusing to wallow in the media swill, or sell his soul in exchange for a heart-to-heart moment with Good Morning America.Notebook-toting wolves have staked out the homes of the accuser’s friends for a quote. Some of those pals have talked and been awarded face time with Katie Couric.More than a few scribblers happily imbedded themselves at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, where the alleged attack occurred June 30. They’ve enjoyed massages and fine meals on the company dime while searching for the truth.That effort bore fruit recently when a bellhop at the resort shared what he knew about the unseemly episode. His comments about the woman’s distraught condition were enough to warrant headlines across the globe.The media pack has even looked up college chums to see how the accuser behaved while a freshman at UNC in Greeley.So far, we have heard plenty of second and third-hand gossip about the woman. We know that she sings and plays the piano. We know she traveled to Texas in a failed try-out for &quotAmerican Idol.&quot We also know that she had a breakdown at college, was rushed to a hospital, then placed under protective custody.More than one former college friend has called her character into question, saying she partied hard and slept around. Whether any of this has anything to do with her encounter with Bryant remains to be seen.But given that most accounts come from unnamed sources or teen-aged chums, the collective reportage seems as unreliable as President George Bush’s 16-word State of the Union blunder.Still, nothing slows the pace of a 24-hour news cycle. Naturally, an endless stream of talking heads have emerged to play their expected roles on LarryKing, Hannity and Combs and Bill O’Reilly.CNN dug up a freakish looking, rock-n-roll groupie to explain why celebrities get all the chicks. CNN said the aging redhead had slept with Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison back in the day. Somehow that gave her insight into the Kobe mess.None of this should shock and awe anyone. It’s all part of the pattern. The beast needs an endless supply of raw meat. That’s why every media hack from Eagle to Inner Mongolia salivates over the dirty details hidden inside Gannett’s chambers.Ironically, none of this desire for salacious information was apparent when the legal eagles nested before Gannett last week. Instead, the arguments focused on the media’s role as watchdog and protector.To hear the media lawyers explain it, you’d think truth; justice and the American way hung in the balance. It was vital, the lawyers said, that the world know exactly what went down when the NBA All-Star ushered his young guest into his hotel room.Enquiring minds won’t rest until they know if Bryant forced himself on her, ripped her clothes, or called her &quotwhite bitch,&quot as at least one unidentified and completely bogus Internet tipster has claimed in e-mails to the press.Such are unseemly details that make headline writers at the New York Daily News very happy.Not everyone is comfortable with what the affidavits may reveal. More than a few media types squirmed in their seats when their representatives said the Constitution demanded that the truth be revealed. The honest reporters know the material will be lurid, shocking and sure to shame the alleged victim for years to come. They also know that the accusations, once exposed, will brandBryant, even if the LA Laker guard is acquitted at trial.But like Eve’s apple, the hidden details tantalize. Even the most ethical journalist amid the pack would surely succumb to the dark side given the chance to scoop the competition.Perhaps, as Yeats said, we are in a time when &quotthe best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.&quotLike so many other media frenzies, from Michael Jackson to O.J. to Scott Peterson, the reporting that has taken place in Peo. v. Kobe Bean Bryant has more to do with a search for ratings than a search for the truth.Eagle County Assistant District Attorney Gregg Crittenden got it right last week when he told Judge Gannett that the Kobe story is &quotessentially entertainment tabloid news.&quotGannett, who has yet to decide whether or not to unseal the court file, termed the three-hour legal debate &quotglorious rhetoric.&quot It’s unlikely the word &quotglorious&quot will ever again be uttered in connection with the media frenzy that hasmade Eagle County ground zero in the next &quotTrial of the Century.&quotThe apocalypse continued Wednesday, Aug. 6 when Bryant came to town for a seven-and-a-half-minute advisement of his rights.Never have so many overpaid bastards come so far for so little. The media masses built their own shantytown across from the Eagle County Justice Center, and a handful of bright locals sold drinks, peanuts and deli food to the media throng.Jessica Willenborg and Janelle Medina, two local teens who attended school with Kobe’s accuser, rolled up to the courthouse in a black car festooned in Laker gear. They wore homemade Laker jerseys that proclaimed &quotNot Guilty, Save a Hero.&quot&quotShe (the accuser) is a nice girl and we are not dogging her,&quot Willenborg said. &quotBut I don’t think the accusations are true.&quotWillenborg was disappointed that Kobe cheated on his young wife. &quotI’m about family value,&quot she said.Several other Laker fans parade before the cameras for their 15 minutes of shame. Two clowns from Castle Rock drove across the state to put on LA Laker gear and proclaim Kobe’s innocence. A chump lofted a cardboard sign that read, &quotIf the condom doesn’t fit, you must acquit.&quotEveryone took his picture.More than 30 citizens, one who traveled from Colorado Springs, lined up to get one of 26 public seats for the afternoon hearing. Two local hotties, dressed to dazzle in tight black pants and clingy tops, became media darlings. They snagged seats inside the hearing and said they had come to support the accuser.But they were in the minority. Far more showed support for the hoop star. And finally, after every bystander had been mauled, the moment of truth came.Bryant’s caravan of three SUVs rolled to the courthouse. A beefy security man exited the lead ride and stood outside the passenger door of the middle car.Bryant exited and walked into the court as a smattering of cheers and calls of &quotKobe is innocent&quot came from a gathering of 50 on-lookers.The actual hearing, a mere formality, lasted minutes.And just like that, Kobe was gone, back into the waiting SUV, then off to the Eagle Airport for a fast getaway.Edwards resident Vincent Cisneros liked what he saw from his spot outside the courthouse.&quotIt was worth it to me,&quot he said. &quotThis is the closest I’ll get to Kobe and I’ll take it.&quotUnfortunately, Eagle is going to take it again and again as the case drags along.


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