Kobe Bryant charged with the sexual assault of 19-year-old woman
Kobe Bryant Charged With Felony Sexual Assault
By ALEX MARKELS
AGLE, Colo., July 18 — Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers' all-star guard, was charged today with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman at the resort hotel near Vail where she worked.
Bryant, 24, was charged with one count of sexual assault, a Class 3 felony. The Eagle County district attorney, Mark Hurlbert, said that he filed the charge this afternoon after studying the case for about two weeks.
"This did not come easily," Hurlbert said. "This decision came only after reviewing all the evidence, testimonial evidence and physical evidence, after reviewing the relevant statutes, after reviewing the relevant case laws."
Hurlbert added that "I have an ethical burden not to prosecute a case unless I can prove it without a reasonable doubt."
On the specifics of the case against Bryant, Hurlbert told reporters, "It is alleged that he got sexual penetration or intrusion and he caused submission of the victim through actual or physical force, and that is contained in the complaint."
Bryant will have to return to Eagle County on Aug. 6 for a preliminary hearing on the charges, Hurlbert said. If the presiding judge finds sufficient evidence to proceed to a trial, Bryant will be arraigned and asked to enter a plea.
Bryant returned to Eagle County on July 4 and turned himself in to the sheriff's office. He was booked and released about an hour later, after posting a $25,000 bond.
Bryant has maintained his innocence from the outset. His lawyers have scheduled a news conference today in Los Angeles at 6 p.m. California time. If convicted, he could face a maximum of four years to life in prison; the minimum sentence is 20 years to life on probation.
Bryant, one of the most gifted players in the National Basketball Association, has earned millions in product endorsements by fostering a clean-cut image and building a career free of significant controversy. He was the youngest player ever to join the N.B.A. when he was drafted at age 17 in 1996. Last year, at age 23, he became the youngest player in the N.B.A. to play on three league championship teams. Bryant is married and the father of a 6-month-old girl.
The woman who made the accusations graduated from Eagle Valley High School last year. She left the town of 4,000 to attend college but had returned home for the summer after her freshman year.
Although she has not been named in news reports, the Vail Daily reported last week that she had been under severe emotional stress before the incident, partly because of the death of a friend in a car accident this summer.
The newspaper also sued the Eagle Police Department to obtain dispatch records related to possible 911 emergency calls from the woman's address. Citing the need to protect her privacy, the police have so far refused to furnish that information.
Friends of the woman and people who worked with her at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera said she had been hired for the summer as a concierge.
She greeted Bryant on the night of June 30 as he checked into the exclusive, 56-room hotel overlooking Vail, where he had come to stay before undergoing exploratory surgery to repair an injured knee, according to hotel employees. Cordillera employees said the woman later went to Bryant's room and that a guest subsequently called the front desk to complain about noise coming from Bryant's room. Soon after, the woman returned to the lobby and went home, the employees said.
Later that night, Bryant appeared at the front desk and spoke casually with the hotel's night auditor for an extended period, employees said. A worker who greeted him in the spa the next morning described him as friendly and relaxed.
A sexual assault complaint against Bryant was filed the same morning. Officials later confirmed that the woman was taken to a local hospital, where she was examined for evidence of ****. The results of the testing were forwarded to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for analysis. Sheriff's deputies interviewed witnesses at the hotel and searched Bryant's room.
After his knee surgery the same day, Bryant was approached by sheriff's investigators. He was later escorted to a hospital in nearby Glenwood Springs to provide DNA samples. The next day, July 2, he returned to his home near Los Angeles.
In a meeting before Bryant's arrest, Hurlbert and Sheriff Joseph Hoy of Eagle County discussed the possibilities of arresting and charging Bryant. People with knowledge of the meeting said that Hoy believed that there was probable cause to arrest Bryant.
Hurlbert, however, faced a higher legal standard that requires prosecutors to gather enough evidence to ensure a reasonable probability of conviction at trial. Hurlbert, who is described colleagues as deliberative and cautious, put off pressing charges and later told defense lawyers that he would wait until after the Fourth of July holiday to make a decision.
But on July 3, Hoy presented the evidence to District Judge Russell Granger, who approved an arrest warrant and sealed access to all records pertaining to the case.
Informed of the sheriff's intent to arrest Bryant, his lawyers advised him to return to Colorado. On July 4, he arrived with his wife, Vanessa, on a private jet, turned himself in and was released after posting bond. He returned to Los Angeles immediately afterward.