Tuesday, July 8, 2003

No charges yet; Bryant's lawyer blasts officials

District attorney taking his time

The Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. - Prosecutors need more time before deciding whether to bring charges against Kobe Bryant, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a resort near Vail last week.

"Sometimes it takes awhile to get through everything," Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said Monday. "It may be beyond the end of the week."

He said Bryant might not be charged at all, but he refused to discuss details of the allegations against the five-time NBA All-Star.

Bryant's lawyer, Pamela Mackey, said the Los Angeles Lakers' guard "expects to be completely exonerated," and she accused the sheriff's office of rushing the case against the prosecutors' advice.

Prosecutors say they are treating Bryant like any other person suspected of sexual assault, although Eagle County sheriff's investigators did give him a day's warning that a warrant would be issued for his arrest.

According to an arrest warrant, the 24-year-old Bryant attacked a woman June 30. Authorities said only that it happened at a hotel. Officials at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in nearby Edwards said Bryant stayed there June 30-July 2.

Under Colorado law, sexual assault could range from fondling to rape. The accusations against one of the NBA's biggest stars made headlines nationwide and stunned the sports world.

Since entering the NBA straight from high school, Bryant has drawn comparisons to the league's greatest players ever. He was married in 2001 and became a father earlier this year.

Bryant surrendered to authorities Friday and was released after posting $25,000 bond. Mackey said her client had been in Colorado for surgery on his right knee at Vail's Steadman Hawkins Clinic.

Mackey accused the sheriff's office of "complete bias," saying it ignored the wishes of the district attorney in obtaining the arrest warrant.

"We were told that the matter was under consideration by the district attorney's office but that there was insufficient information to issue a warrant or to file charges," she said in a statement.

Mackey did not return calls seeking elaboration. At Monday's news conference, Hurlbert refused to address Mackey's claims.

The sheriff's office sought the arrest warrant from a judge instead of making the request through the district attorney, which is the usual practice. Only the district attorney's office can file charges.

Hoy said his investigators learned of the case July 1 and spent nearly 30 hours on the case before contacting Bryant. Defense attorneys were notified on the Fourth of July. Bryant returned to Colorado that day.

"There wasn't any urgency. We felt we were doing the right thing for everyone involved," Hoy said. "We wanted to give people the time to themselves to adjust" because of the holiday.

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