The road to a verdict is long, winding |

The road to a verdict is long, winding

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert listens to a reporter's question during a press conference Friday at the Eagle County Justice Center. Hurlbert announced he has filed class-3 felony sexual assault charges against Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant.

The road to Kobe Bryant’s day in court could be long, a local attorney said.

Bryant is charged with Class 3 felony sexual assault. As felonies go, it’s serious. The maximum penalty is life in prison. At the other end is probation without a day in a cell.

“This is a big problem,” said Rohn Robbins, attorney for Colorado Mountain News Media.

Criminal cases usually start in County Court, Robbins said, where defendants are advised of their rights. In Bryant’s case, that’s Aug. 6.

After that, comes the preliminary hearing in District Court, where the district attorney must establish probable cause.

“The standard of probable cause is really pretty low,” said Robbins.

Those following the case can expect Bryant’s attorneys to begin challenging everything about the case during the preliminary hearing. They can also expect those challenges to be rejected and that the case will be sent to District Court.

During this period, attorneys on both sides will have probably been doing what’s called “discovery,” the exchange of information. Both sides get a look at all the evidence, including police reports, interviews, and all the physical evidence.

“You don’t have to give them everything,” said Robbins. “Some things such as notes, impressions, legal research and strategy don’t have to be handed over. But substantially everything else in the investigatory file, they’re entitled to.”

The defense will ask for physical evidence, and it could be much more than fluids. Class 3 felony sexual assault is sexual assault with violence or the threat of violence. In essence, it is forcible rape. Defense attorneys would be looking for anything that indicates a struggle, Robbins said.

At the preliminary hearing, after the judge rules whether there is probable cause to proceed. If there is, the case will be sent to District Court.

Cases generally slow down a little between being sent from County Court to District Court. That pause could run for up to a couple of months.

“Lots of things can happen in that period,” said Robbins. “They can enter into a plea bargain or ask for another advisement, which would likely be doubtful in the case.”

That District Court hearing is where Bryant will officially enter his plea.

Between that District Court hearing and the trial, the judge can schedule pretrial conferences. Robbins said among these may be status hearings conferences in which judges get together with the attorneys to find out how things are going and schedule prosecution of the action.

They will likely also go through a series of motions hearings in which both sides will ask the court to do something, by filing motions with the court and hearing oral argument.

In high profile cases like this one, the motions hearings may be open to try to engender support from the media.

“They can be motions to suppress and even challenges to the charges themselves,” said Robbins.

After that, they go to trial.

“Usually, people want to get a speedy trial,” said Robbins. “In high profile cases, that might not be true. They might want to slow things down a little to ease the momentum. That’s often true in high profile cases.”

“On the other hand, this may so damaging to his media persona that he may want to get it out of the way quickly.”

In Colorado, a defendant’s right to a speedy trial will put him in court within six months of the date he enters his plea.

“He can waive his speedy trial right, and I think he might,” said Robbins.

When the war is over, before the jury goes in for a decision, each side may be permitted by the court to can come forward with a list of other lesser included offenses that the jury could find.

“The jury will not know it’s coming,” said Robbins. “They won’t know they can come to any verdict besides guilty or not guilty of this charge.”

If Bryant is convicted, he may not be subject to being bond eligible. If that were the case, he’d sit in jail until the pre-sentencing investigation was completed and he was sentenced.

He would also have to register as a sex offender with the state of Colorado for the probation period, maybe the rest of his life.

The trail to trial

– Aug. 6: Bryant will return for the advisement of his rights. So far, that’s the only firm date so far.

– Preliminary hearing in County Court: The district attorney must show probable cause for proceeding. If probable cause is found, it’s bound over to District Court.

– District Court: At his first appearance in district court he will be

readvised of his rights and charges. It’s usually a couple of months later. That’s where a plea is entered.

– Motions hearings: Attorneys for both sides will make myriad motions regarding evidence and procedures. Among them could be a request to dismiss the case or for a plea bargain.

– Trial

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