Testing common in sex cases | VailDaily.com

Testing common in sex cases

Randy Wyrick and Cliff Thompson
** FILE ** Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant dunks during the third quarter of Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal series against the San Antonio Spurs in Los Angeles, in this May 9, 2003 photo. Bryant was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault after a woman accused the Lakers' guard of sexual misconduct at a hotel near Vail, Colo. The 24-year-old Bryant was released after turning himself in Friday and posting a $25,000 bond on suspicion of felony sexual assault, the Eagle County sheriff's office said Sunday July 6, 2003. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and his alleged sexual assault victim both checked into local hospitals for testing as part of the ongoing investigation, authorities said Thursday.

Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said the alleged victim went to a hospital for testing, which Hoy called a common practice in sexual assault cases. He declined to discuss what the tests entailed, or at which hospital they were done.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kim Andree said sexual assault victims usually are more comfortable transporting themselves to a medical facility, or being transported by friends or family, then being met there by law-enforcement officials. Andree’s not confirming, however, that that’s what happened in this case.

Why the hospital

Kathy Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes and a rape victim herself, said hospital visits after alleged sexual assaults are to help gather physical evidence.

“Physical evidence is a rape kit, and she would not have done that if his semen had not been in her,” said Redmond. “A sexual assault victim has to go to a hospital where they take swab samples. Then they examine for tears and abrasions. In rape, you’re not aroused, so there are always tears and abrasions. It’s the only scientific evidence that exists.”

Victims don’t do that if they’re working a scam, said Redmond.

“They’re painful, and if she was working a scam it’s the one certain way that her claim could be refuted,” said Redmond. “It’s ludicrous that she would voluntarily do that.”

Kobe’s midnight run

Vail taxi dispatcher and driver Terry O’Brien, 38, took three members of Bryant’s entourage, who were staying at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, at about 2:30 a.m., July 2, where Bryant had checked into the emergency room. O’Brien said he was paid a fare of $372 by Michael Ortiz, one of Bryant’s bodyguards.

O’Brien said that when he picked up “three big guys,” at Cordillera, “they seemed nervous and anxious.”

One of the passengers said that he had to pick up someone, “a friend” who was having “the worst day of his life,” O’Brien said.

They didn’t talk much. The same passenger went on to say that he didn’t know if he would have a job after this. O’Brien described them as “some sort of sports handlers or bodyguards.”

“On the way down there, they were extremely stressed. (There was) a sense of urgency in what they were doing and some secrecy. They asked me to turn up the radio so I couldn’t hear what was being said. I hear them mentioning Kobe. I hear they were from Los Angeles. And I put two and two together,” he said.

“I got the vibe from the conversation it was a DUI because I heard them mention tests and legal contingencies. And they were troubleshooting some problem, looking at all the angles.”

When O’Brien’s taxi arrived at Valley View Hospital, Kobe was escorted out of the hospital by three or four police officers.

“It doesn’t make sense,” O’Brien said, trying to make sense of why the Sheriff’s Office waited to arrest Bryant several days later, on Friday the Fourth of July.

Deputies “were there,” he said. “The stories reported seemed to be missing a bunch. I couldn’t understand why the Sheriff’s Office had to get a warrant for his arrest and why he had to return on the 4th, because he seemed to be in intensive custody when I saw him.”

Bryant got into the taxi and did not speak at all, O’Brien said. He was limping slightly. O’Brien suspects it was from the surgery. Kobe and two of the three orginal taxi passengers went to a back entrance of the Hotel Colorado.

O’Brien took the third passenger back to the Lodge at Cordillera. O’Brien suspects it was to clean out the room. That third person asked O’Brien to wait and to take him back to Glenwood Springs. But it was 5:45 a.m. and his shift was ending, so O’Brien arranged for another taxi driver to drive the man back.

The other driver said the third man put lots of luggage in the taxi and that he slept the whole way back to Glenwood Springs, O’Brien recalled.

“I think the Sheriff’s Office is looking pretty stupid right now,” O’Brien said. “(What) I saw was a little mysterious. The way it was handled and the way he was handed off, kind of bizarre. Something was definitely amiss.”

“It seems like something was going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about yet,” he said. “I don’t want to discredit Bryant at all. My gut instinct is that he’s innocent. … This is totally contradictory to the image he has.”

The allegations

Bryant was released on $25,000 bond Friday after the Eagle County Sheriff’s office issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of felony sexual assault on a 19-year-old Eagle County woman.

Bryant’s attorneys have repeatedly asserted that their client is innocent, saying they expect him to be completely exonerated. Attorney Pamela Mackey called the Sheriff’s Office investigation “biased and unfair.” She said that when an “unbiased investigation” was completed, Bryant would be cleared of any criminal misconduct.

Bryant was in Eagle County last week for surgery on his right knee at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic. He had left the area by July 2. Hoy said Bryant flew back to Eagle County Friday night, the Fourth of July, turned himself in at the Eagle County Justice Center, processed and posted $25,000 bond, and returned to California that night.

Hoy said Bryant was in custody less than an hour.

While in Eagle County, he stayed two nights, June 30 and July 1, at The Lodge at Cordillera in Edwards, where the incident allegedly occurred, sources said.

Hoy said the alleged assault occurred June 30. The allegations of sexual assault were filed with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office the next day.

Hoy said after interviews with local witnesses and a review of the physical evidence, investigators met with representatives from the District Attorney’s Office and concluded they had enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for Bryant on felony sexual assault allegations. Sources close to the investigation said physical evidence exists to link Bryant to the allegations.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert is expected to decide by the end of the week whether to formally charge Bryant.

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