Kobe Bryant Faces an Unfamiliar Court Today — a Court of Law - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8-6-03

Kobe Bryant Faces an Unfamiliar Court Today — a Court of Law

Aug. 6— NBA superstar Kobe Bryant is unlikely to welcome the spotlight when he enters an unfamiliar court today — a court of law.

Bryant will appear in Eagle County, Colo., court today to be formally advised of the sexual assault charge he faces for allegedly raping a 19-year-old woman.

The hearing is expected to be brief — between five and 10 minutes only. The Los Angeles Lakers guard will be advised of the charge, his rights and the possible penalties he faces.

Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett could set a timetable of future hearings leading up to a probable cause hearing, where the prosecution's evidence against Bryant could be made public for the first time. That preliminary hearing could be scheduled within 30 days of today's hearing or Bryant's defense attorneys could ask for an extension.

Bryant will not be required to enter a plea at today's hearing, legal analysts expect that he will not make any statements.

"All eyes are watching — the potential jury pool is out there. They're going to be evaluating every move he makes," former prosecutor Kimberly Guilfoyle-Newsom said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "He's been quite vocal over the course of the past weeks, and especially at the Teen Choice Awards, saying injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. But look for him to keep quiet today, which would be a smart move."

Bryant's public relations struggle will continue after the hearing, as he faces the question of how to appear innocent without appearing callous or unconcerned, or worse — guilty.

"It's kind of a Catch-22," defense attorney Chris Pixley told Good Morning America. "After today's hearing, if Kobe Bryant is holed up by his defense team, then the suggestion is made by the media that he's hiding behind his attorneys or that worse, he may be showing signs of guilt or that he's guilt ridden.

"The flip side is when he's out in the media or out in public as he has been recently, there are a lot of attacks made against him for maybe being cavalier about the charges against him," Pixley said. "It's a lose-lose. At the end of the day, you can't tell your client they can't go about their life. This is someone who is a celebrity. He's going to be followed whenever he's out."

He Said, She Said

Bryant, 24, met his alleged victim on June 30, when he stayed at Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Edwards. The NBA star, who is married and has an infant daughter, has admitted committing adultery with the woman but insists the sex was consensual. He flew back to Colorado to turn himself in to authorities for his arrest on July 4 and was freed after posting $25,000 bond.

The woman, an employee at the resort, was allegedly attacked after she gave Bryant a tour of the facility's hotel and spa, sources have told ABCNEWS. The tour ended at Bryant's room, sources say, where he allegedly invited her to come inside and she accepted. According to the sources, there was some consensual contact between Bryant and his accuser, but the woman says she did not consent to intercourse.

The alleged victim sustained some physical injuries, which Eagle County prosecutors are expected to argue are indicative of sexual assault, sources said. A bellhop at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera told police he saw the woman shortly after the alleged attack and that she was visibly upset and disheveled.

Small Town Ready for Big-Time Onslaught

Under Colorado law, a rape can still occur if the victim consents to some sexual activity, but later withdraws her consent or refuses to give consent to other sexual activity, including intercourse. Bryant faces probation to life in prison if convicted on the single felony count.

Some courtroom observers have said they do not expect a plea bargain in the case. If Bryant pleaded guilty to a lesser count, he would have to register as a convicted sex offender.

"From the prosecution point of view, you don't really plead those cases down or plead them anyway," Court TV reporter Vinnie Politan told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "From the defendant's point of view, any sort of admission to doing anything wrong here is just suicide for him."

Authorities at the Eagle County Courthouse have been preparing for days for a media onslaught when Bryant makes his first court appearance.

Prosecutors have received threats since Bryant was charged, so court officials planned to have their metal detectors ready and post sheriff's deputies around the courthouse. Seats in the small courtroom had to be assigned to certain members of the press and a tent was set up outside the courthouse to accommodate the overflow of reporters.

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