Threats in Bryant case lands L.A. man in jail
A man claiming association with the “Mexican Mafia” is in a California jail for allegedly threatening to kill the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant case, as well as the prosecutor and at least one witness.
Cedric V. Augustine, 37, of Long Beach, Calif., is charged with threatening District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and his family. Augustine also threatened the alleged victim, her family and at least one witness – the bellman.
According to a grand jury indictment, Augustine’s threats came almost daily between July 18 and Nov. 16, 2003. Most of the threats were left on answering machines in the District Attorney’s Office and the Eagle County Combined Courts. Augustine’s threats included references to gangs, including the “Mexican Mafia” and the “South Santa Ana Blood Killers.”
Many of Augustine’s threats involved blowing up or burning down the Eagle County Justice Center. He also allegedly threatened to blow “the town apart” and to shoot and kill all involved in the Bryant prosecution.
Augustine was arrested without incident Thursday at his home in California. He made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Friday. His first appearance in U.S. District Court in Denver is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., March 15.
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“These threats were blatant attempts to influence and impede the prosecution of a criminal case,” said U.S. Attorney John Suthers. “The threats are of a menacing nature, they were taken seriously by the victims, and therefore the alleged perpetrator must be prosecuted.”
This case was investigated by the FBI, including Special Agent Craig Byrkit, with assistance provided by the deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda McMahan.
“This type of threatening behavior is repugnant to the spirit of dignity and fairness that underlies the judicial process,” said
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FBI Special Agent in Charge Phillip B.J. Reid. “Allegations of threats will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted by federal authorities.”
According to the indictment, Augustine threatened to kill Bob Pietrack, the bellman, the same way former Baylor University basketball player Patrick Dennehy was killed. Dennehy was found dead of gunshot wounds to the head last July near Waco, Texas. Dennehy’s roommate and former teammate, Carlton Dotson, was arrested and charged with his murder on July 21.
Hurlbert said he appreciated every effort the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has made.
Hurlbert and defense attorney Harold Haddon, who with Pamela Mackey is representing Bryant, decried the threats.
“These kinds of cases attract this kind of bizarre, nut stuff,” said Haddon, whose involvement with the JonBenet Ramsey case garnered him a couple of death threats.
3 times threatened
Augustine is at least the third man taken into custody for allegedly threatening to kill people involved with the Bryant case.
John William Roche, 22, of Iowa City, Iowa, was arrested for leaving a telephone message at the alleged victim’s house July 27, 2003, threatening to kill her, then do further harm to her with a coat hanger. Roche made his threat from Iowa to Eagle County. Crossing interstate lines with his threat landed him in federal court.
In a separate case, Bryant’s attorneys alerted federal authorities that a Swiss bodybuilder with an expired visa had offered to kill Bryant’s alleged victim for $3 million. Patrick Graber, 31, was charged with solicitation to commit murder.
Besides the direct death threats, police records show that someone in the alleged victim’s house called police at least twice to report suspicious incidents.
Prosecutors ask to limit questioning of woman
Prosecutors on Friday asked that the judge strictly limit what defense attorneys can ask Kobe Bryant’s alleged victim during her first court appearance next week.
The 19-year-old Eagle woman is scheduled to testify at private hearing ordered by District Judge Terry Ruckriegle. That hearing will help Ruckriegle determine whether her sexual history before and after the June 30 incident with her and Bryant can be heard by the jury during the trial.
Prosecutor Dana Easter accused defense attorneys Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon of trying to get around Colorado’s rape shield law, which bars such information from being introduced during a trial.
“The defense … intends to humiliate and embarrass her with allegations of conduct which have no bearing on this case whatsoever,” Easter wrote. “It is a humiliating fishing expedition which the prosecution seeks to prevent.”
Easter said the woman has already been subject to death threats and “a complete disruption of her life,” with personal information about her published around the world and defense investigators questioning her friends.
The defense argues that the woman’s injuries could have come from sexual encounters within days or hours of when she encountered Bryant in his room at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. She says she was raped, while he claims they had consensual sex.
Easter’s proposed limits on the defense’s questioning of the woman were filed under seal.
Bryant, 25, is charged with one count of felony sexual assault.
He is scheduled to appear for another round of motions hearings on Monday and Tuesday.