The climbing cost of Kobe
The circus might be entertaining in some ways, but it’s not free.
Kobe Bryant’s court appearance last week cost Eagle County taxpayers about $1,000 a minute, according to Eagle County budget figures.
Eagle County spent between $5,000 and $7,000 last week just to accommodate the media that showed up to cover his arraignment, even with several items donated to the county. Bryant was inside the Eagle County Justice Center for a little over seven minutes.
Bryant came to town last Wednesday to be advised of his rights and the charges against him – both of which he waived – in connection to felony charges that he sexually assaulted a 19-year-old Eagle woman June 30.
Last week’s financial output does not dip into the $105,000 that the Eagle County commissioners set aside to help the District Attorney’s Office pay expenses through the end of this year connected to the case.
It also does not include District Attorney’s Office staff time, court time or any expenses attached to the defense attorneys or their staff. Those figures are, so far, unavailable.
Assistant Eagle County Administrator Becky Gadell said the county caught a break when the Gallegos Corp. donated a vacant lot across Chambers Avenue from the courthouse to help accommodate the broadcast media. More than 30 television satellite trucks and 14 television broadcast tents were parked on the site last week.
Gadell said Alpine Party Rentals also gave the county a break on the cost of the tent erected on the Justice Center lawn to accommodate print and radio reporters. The county’s tent was already at the Eagle County Fairgrounds for the fair and rodeo, she said. She said the phone line in the media tent was courtesy of CenturyTel.
“All those resources have been donated,” said Gadell.
CenturyTel also installed 116 phone lines for television broadcasters, which were not free.
Gadell said the total cost to prosecute Bryant is still a big unknown. The District Attorney’s Office’s additional budget requests for next year have not yet come in, she said.
“It will go into next year,” she said.
Eagle County’s share of the district attorney’s budget is $951,000 – 10 percent up from 2002 budget, said Gadell. The 5th Judicial District covers Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties.
When the Eagle County commissioners set aside $105,000 to help the District Attorney’s Office pay expenses stemming from the case, it was part of a $150,000 supplemental budget package that included $10,000 for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. The total annual budget for Sheriff’s Office is $7.44 million.
The district attorney’s share requires him to submit a detailed plan on how the money will be spent. It also requires representatives from the other three counties to meet and discuss how they might help offset some of the costs, said Gadell.
The additional expenses came at a tough time for Eagle County. The county implemented a hiring freeze last week and is looking for ways to hold spending at this year’s levels.
County department heads have begun submitting their budgets for the 2004 fiscal year.
What is free to Eagle County taxpayers is the help offered by district attorneys offices from around Colorado, who are stepping up to lend a helping hand in prosecuting the Bryant case.
Ingrid Bakke, head of Boulder’s domestic violence and sexual assault unit director and a Boulder County deputy district attorney, joins District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Deputy District Attorney Greg Crittenden in prosecuting the high-profile case.
The Denver and Jefferson County district attorney’s offices and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office will help deal with the expected avalanche of pretrial paperwork.
Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said his office will assist Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy and his staff deal with staffing and law enforcement issues.
At the request of Eagle County Judge Fred Gannett, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is also providing an investigator to help determine who might be leaking information to the media. That investigation stems from a motion by Bryant’s defense attorneys Harold Haddon and Pamela Mackey that all law enforcement officials connected with the case be interviewed under oath to try to find the sources of the leaks.
Bryant surrendered to Eagle County authorities July 4 after a warrant was issued for his arrest on a count of sexual assault. On July 18, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert charged Bryant with one count of felony sexual assault, a Class 3 felony. If convicted, Bryant faces between 20 years probation and life in prison.