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Officials unsure if Bryant will be charged

Published Sep. 1, 2005

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

"Sometimes it takes a while 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, 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 accused the Sheriff's Office of rushing the case against the advice of prosecutors.

According to an arrest warrant, the 24-year-old Bryant attacked a woman June 30. Authorities said only that it happened at a hotel, but a bellman at the upscale Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in nearby Edwards said Bryant was a guest June 30 and July 1.

The accusations against one of the NBA's biggest stars made headlines nationwide. Dozens of reporters and camera crews descended on this mountain town about 100 miles west of Denver.

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

Bryant surrendered to authorities Friday and was released after posting $25,000 bond. Mackey said her client was 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.

"What's done is done," said Hurlbert, standing a few feet from Sheriff Joe Hoy, whose office is leading the investigation. "I'm not going to comment on whether it was prudent or not. A judge found probable cause."

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 and Bryant returned to Colorado that day.

"There wasn't any urgency. We felt we were doing the right thing for everyone involved," Hoy said.

Hurlbert said he talked to the woman, who "seems to be doing okay considering the circumstances."

In Colorado law, felony sexual assault has a wide scope, from coerced touching to rape.

Bryant helped lead Los Angeles to three consecutive titles from 2000-02 and was the MVP of the 2002 All-Star Game.

Bryant often has shown the dignity and heart many believe are missing from other NBA players. When the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs by San Antonio in May, Bryant wiped away tears as he left the court. "I hate this feeling, I don't ever want to feel it again," he said.

He married Vanessa Laine in April 2001. The two got engaged while she was in high school. Vanessa gave birth to their first child, Natalia Diamante Bryant, in January. Bryant wore his hospital ID bracelet in a game the day after his daughter was born.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the allegations were completely out of character for Bryant.

Former teammate Cedric Ceballos said he was shocked when he heard the news, thinking, "This can't happen to him."