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1 3rd August 17:12
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Default Bryant Charged With *** Assault - The Truth Lies In the Unknown
Bryant Charged With *** Assault
Lakers Star Calls Encounter Consensual

By T. R. Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 19, 2003; Page A01

EAGLE, Colo., July 18 -- Kobe Bryant, one of the most prominent
athletes of his generation, today was charged with ***ually assaulting
a 19-year-old woman, a felony that could bring probation to life in
prison and a fine up to $750,000 if the popular NBA player and Los
Angeles Lakers all-star guard is convicted.

"I can prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that Bryant "inflicted ***ual
intrusion or ***ual penetration causing submission against the
victim's will," said Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert,
standing before a sprawling media contingent that engulfed the little
courthouse in this mountain village 120 miles west of Denver.

The 24-year-old Bryant, who is free on $25,000 bail, denied the charge
and said he is guilty only of adultery at a Colorado resort in late
June. He is due to appear at the courthouse here for arraignment on
Aug. 6.

"I'm innocent," Bryant said, his voice quivering, at a news conference
tonight in Los Angeles with his wife, Vanessa, sitting next to him,
holding his right hand. "I didn't force her to do anything against her
will. I'm innocent. I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself,
disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery. I love my wife
with all my heart. She's my backbone."

"I have to answer to my wife and my God for my actions that night and
I pray that both will f****ve me," Bryant said in a statement released
this afternoon. "These false allegations have hurt my family. I will
fight against these allegations with all my strength."

Bryant's defense lawyer, Pamela Mackey, of Denver, said her client
will plead innocent. Mackey said the defense will be that the ***ual
encounter was "between two consenting adults."

"I don't believe the charges should have been filed in this case,"
Mackey said at tonight's news conference in Los Angeles. "The evidence
does not support them."

Hurlbert would not say when the criminal trial would begin. A veteran
defense attorney in Colorado said the case could go to trial this
fall, unless either side seeks delays. That means Bryant may be
battling possible life imprisonment in a Colorado courtroom while the
NBA season is underway. Bryant also could miss playing with the U.S.
Olympic qualifying team, which will begin practice Aug. 10 in New

A felony trial for ***ual assault, and the amount of media that will
likely follow it, could drastically affect Bryant's image of a husband
and father with a stellar reputation on and off the court.

At a time when several professional athletes have drawn sharp
criticism for loutish or criminal behavior, Bryant has been promoted
by the Lakers and the NBA as a model athlete and citizen. He has a
six-year, $70.9 million contract with the team, which expires at the
end of the 2003-04 season, as well as a multimillion-dollar
endor*****t contracts with Nike, Spalding and Sprite, among others.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league would have no comment
until the outcome of the judicial proceeding.

Bryant married Vanessa Laine in April 2001, to the public dismay of
his parents, who felt the 19-year-old bride was too young. The couple
had a baby daughter in January. The family man image also has been an
important part of Bryant's appeal.

Bryant's wife also released a statement today, supporting her husband
and accepting his explanation of the ***ual encounter. "I know that my
husband has made a mistake -- the mistake of adultery. He and I will
have to deal with that within our marriage, and we will do so. He is
not a criminal. I know that he did not commit a crime, he did not
assault anyone.

"He is a loving and kind husband and father. I believe in his

Prosecutors here say they will rely on the alleged victim's testimony
as well as "physical evidence" in their felony case against Bryant.
Hurlbert reportedly obtained DNA samples from Bryant and the victim
and had them ****yzed before deciding to charge Bryant.

The criminal charge stems from an incident in the early hours of
Monday, June 30. Bryant had come to the ski resort of Vail, about 30
miles east of here, for knee surgery. He stayed at the Lodge & Spa at
Cordillera, a lavish mountain hotel -- rooms run around $340 per night
-- surrounded by four golf courses and located just a 15-minute drive
west of Vail. The woman, who worked at the front desk at the hotel,
went to Bryant's room during the night. The hotel has declined to say
why. Local media has reported that guests in nearby rooms called the
front desk that night to report sounds of a fracas in Bryant's suite.

A day later, the woman went to the Eagle County Sheriff's office and
filed a complaint that the basketball star had assaulted her. Bryant
surrendered to authorities on July 4, was arrested and released on
bail an hour later.

The formal charge in "State of Colorado v. Kobe Bean Bryant" states
that Bryant "knowingly inflicted ***ual intrusion or ***ual
penetration" and that he used "physical force or physical violence" to
force her to submit.

The woman and her family have declined to speak publicly about the
case. "It's been very difficult for her," Hulbert said. "It'll be more
difficult with all the attention to come."

Hurlbert asked the assembled reporters to "please respect the victim's
privacy." Television crews have been parked outside the woman's home
and a newspaper in Vail has filed a court petition for access to
records of all emergency calls made from the woman's home.

Colorado law prohibits identifying the victim in cases of alleged
***ual assault, but there has been no privacy for the woman in this
village of 3,700. She was well known as a pianist, singer and
cheerleader while in high school, and the whole town shared her hope
and disappointment last year when she auditioned for "American Idol"
but did not make the cut.

Like many young people in the heart of Colorado ski country, the woman
went into the tourist industry after high school and was working this
summer as a concierge at the Cordillera resort when Bryant checked in.

Local opinion appears to be strongly supportive of the alleged victim.
Nonetheless, prosecutor Hurlbert said today he did not see any reason
for changing the venue of the trial.

"I would hope to try this case in Eagle County," he said.

Hulbert and Eagle County Sheriff Joseph Hoy have both said repeatedly
that Kobe Bryant is being treated like any other criminal defendant.
Today, Hurlbert announced that he has hired a special press assistant
just to handle the demands of the Bryant case.

The Truth Lies In the Unknown

By Tony Kornheiser

Saturday, July 19, 2003; Page D01

I don't come here today to indict all NBA players, to say they are
thugs and warn everybody off the streets and into their houses. I
don't think what happened to Kobe Bryant yesterday -- being charged
with ***ual assault -- speaks to all NBA players.

It speaks to one young man, one young woman, one hotel room in
Colorado on one night.

Nothing more. Though certainly nothing less.

But it is a very serious charge, more serious than driving while
intoxicated; more serious than an assault in a real estate dispute;
more serious than lying about where all the money went.

We're a long way from a resolution on this matter, and for more than
200 years we have believed in the presumption of innocence for anyone
accused of anything. But if down the road it turns out that Kobe
Bryant is guilty, he will take a greater fall than almost anybody else
now playing in the NBA. Because he had risen so far above most
everybody else.

Last week Bryant told the Los Angeles Times, "You know me. You know
I'd never do anything like that." And we want to believe him, because
to our knowledge Kobe Bryant hasn't ever done anything like that. He
hasn't done anything more scandalous than occasionally take too many
shots and not get Shaq enough shots. Kobe is just about the most
likable young man in the NBA.

But of course we don't really know him. The truth is we don't really
know any of the athletes we so eagerly and comfortably revere. We
don't really even know the people who live next door to us, or down
the street from us or across the hall from us. Which is what we always
learn when a spy is arrested.

Let me say here that I like Kobe Bryant, and I hope the charge isn't
true. I suspect many people feel the same way right now: They like
Kobe Bryant. They hope he didn't do this. Walk into any mall and
you'll see scores of kids wearing Kobe's No. 8 Lakers jersey. But
there is also a young woman in the picture who claims he did. She's
19, and though she isn't as famous as Kobe Bryant, she is about to
have her whole world turned upside down. And she has friends and
family, too, and they are in pain much as Kobe's friends and family
are in pain. And now there is no denying something happened in that
hotel room. Yesterday, Bryant admitted he had ***ual relations with
the woman who has accused him. "I made the mistake of adultery,"
Bryant said in a statement, maintaining his innocence of the charge of
***ual assault. In a statement of her own, Bryant's wife, Vanessa,
said, "I will stand by him and we will face this together." But the
charge stands. No statement can erase it yet.

The shock today is not that an athlete is being charged with ***ual
assault. We have seen that before. The shock is that it's Kobe Bryant.

He is not Mike Tyson, who has a history of violent episodes. He is not
Allen Iverson, who has a well-massaged reputation for living "the
street life." He is not Chris Webber, who seems incapable of telling
the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He is not Rod
Strickland or Damon Stoudamire or any number of Portland Trail Blazers
players who seem to spend so much time in jail it's like they're on a
meal plan there. No, Kobe Bryant seemed to be far better than them.

The standards are different. It's always a shock, but never a surprise
when Iverson's name is mentioned in connection with an investigation
into an allegation about a gun or an automobile or a dispute of some
sort. Every day that Iverson stays healthy, and the waters around him
stay calm is a victory day. If Iverson simply shows up at practice,
people applaud. No amount of hot water he gets into ever seems to
scald him. The bar was set much higher for Bryant.

A mythology has grown up around Bryant, and it is by and large
wonderful. We know that he is cultured, having grown up in Italy,
where his father was playing pro ball. We know he speaks many
languages. We know he is a great, great player -- perhaps unsurpassed
today. We know he is a winner; he and Shaquille O'Neal have three
championships with the Lakers. They are not Batman and Robin. They are
both so good that they are Batman and Batman.

And even though Kobe Bryant didn't go to college -- he skipped it and
went straight to the pros -- he has somehow come to stand for
everything that's right about athletics. He is polite. He dresses
well, and conservatively. At such a young age he's still old school.
He isn't covered with tattoos. He has no children out of wedlock. He
and his wife are the parents of a baby daughter. He has lots of
commercial endor*****ts, primarily because he is so good as a player
and appears so nice, so respectful and so earnest.

Just recently Bryant signed a sneaker deal with Nike that will pay him
significantly less than LeBron James's Nike deal. People said it was
because LeBron has "street cred," and Kobe doesn't. Kobe is too
goody-goody. Imagine that: The rougher you seem, the closer to the
edge you walk, the more gym shoes you can sell. That doesn't seem
right, does it?

I am in the sports business because I love sports and admire the
skills of the people who play them well. Even as cynical as I am, I
tend to glamorize athletes for what they do on the field, and I talk
glowingly of their grace under pressure, their marvelous sense of the
moment and their heroism. I try hard not to let my awe for what they
do between the lines color my judgment of what they do off the field.
But I'm sure I give them the benefit of the doubt more than I should.

Our culture venerates young, strong, graceful men and women who play
sports. We pay them gobs of money, and give them gobs of love. We
don't ask much from them. In fact, because they thrill us so, we ask
less from them than we do from our own children. And if they don't
stray too far from the middle of the field (and sometimes even if they
do), we hold them up so high it must be hard for them to breathe the
air. But it shouldn't be asking too much to ask that they don't put
themselves in positions where they can be charged with homicides or
****s -- even if the charges are not true.

There will be stories written about how terrible this is for the NBA's
image. But this is who today is terrible for: Kobe Bryant, his wife
and their family. And this young Colorado woman and her family. Today
and tomorrow and tomorrow.

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