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Kobe Bryant Arrested

Aired July 7, 2003 - 20:07   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the NBA's brightest stars with a squeaky clean image to boot soon may face a challenge tougher than anything he's ever seen on the court. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has been accused of sexual assault, although, right now, there are no criminal charges against him.
National correspondent Frank Buckley is standing by live from Edwards, Colorado, not too far from Vail, Colorado -- Frank, good evening.


Right now, the district attorney here in this county deciding whether or not to file charges against Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant was arrested on July 4, after an arrest warrant was issued by a local judge, after the sheriff's department put forward an affidavit stating their case. But the local district attorney's office is still reviewing all of this material to decide whether or not to file formal charges.

This all stems from an incident that allegedly took place on June 30 at an area hotel. An adult female victim says that she was sexually assaulted by Kobe Bryant, who was staying at a local hotel. The local authorities say that they did contact Kobe Bryant, that he did cooperate with the investigation, and that he did turn himself in on July 4.

Meanwhile, his attorneys have issued a statement in which they say that he's innocent and expects to be completely exonerated. They also say that the fact that the arrest warrant was issued before the local district attorney's office was ready to formally file charges indicates that the actions of the sheriff's office are -- quote -- "biased and unfair." That's something that the sheriff's office denies.

The next court appearance for Kobe Bryant would come on August 6. That is if the district attorney's office moves forward with charges -- Paula.

ZAHN: Frank Buckley, thanks so much.

Let's talk more about some of the unusual legal aspects of this case with Jeffrey Toobin.

How are you tonight?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hey. ZAHN: Does this make any sense to you at all?

TOOBIN: Well, it makes sense, but it is unusual. Police are always allowed to arrest people. They can just go out and arrest people.

The decision about whether to prosecute, whether a case is actually brought, always goes to the DA.


ZAHN: And the DA likes some advance knowledge.

TOOBIN: Usually, when you don't have sort of an instant case that needs immediate arrest, the police and the DA coordinate. They say, should we bring this case? They meet. They decide whether there is enough evidence.

Here, you have the police acting right away, arresting Kobe Bryant on the sexual assault charge, without apparently consulting the DA.

ZAHN: But without an official charge.

TOOBIN: Well, that's right. And this will...

ZAHN: Just a report of an alleged violation.

TOOBIN: It is an arrest. It is a real arrest, but it can't go anywhere, it can't turn into a prosecution, unless the DA decides to proceed.

ZAHN: So what kind of a position does this put the DA in, particularly when he was asked some very pointed questions about why anybody went public with this arrest before he had a chance to even analyze the evidence?

TOOBIN: You could see from the expression on his face, he was really holding back. He was not happy about -- really, the police are essentially trying to force his hand, trying to say: We think there is a case here. You, Mr. DA, you better proceed.

And he's in a position of saying: Well, let me wait. Let's see. It is certainly not the usual way this is done in experienced jurisdictions.

ZAHN: You have been a prosecutor before. You worked in the DA's office. Just help us understand what that DA was feeling and the position of vulnerability he might have felt like he had been placed in.

TOOBIN: Well, it is just a terrible position, because if -- especially in a situation with someone like Kobe Bryant, because Kobe Bryant is not going anywhere. He's not going to disappear. There was no reason to arrest him right away. You could have just had a meeting with the cops, gotten all the evidence together, talked about it, whether there was enough to proceed. Instead, here he is. If he doesn't proceed, he is looking like he's coddling a celebrity. If he does proceed, he's got to deal with the jury argument late down the road that the cops had a rush to judgment against Kobe Bryant. It is nothing good for the prosecutor here.

ZAHN: The DA also made it clear he's not even sure whether charges will come out of this.

TOOBIN: Well, that's his dilemma. He has got to start from square one. He has got to look at the evidence. He has got to see whether there is enough.


ZAHN: Though he had to publicly state that, one way or the other. He's not sure whether it's going to happen or not. He has to leave the door completely wide open.

TOOBIN: Absolutely, because he doesn't know. And he's now in a position where, if he decides not to go ahead, he looks like he's somehow covering up, when, if he had just organized this from the beginning with the cops, it would have been a coordinated, more defensible approach.

ZAHN: Your reaction to the issue of race and the allegation tonight that this might have been inspired by race or by someone trying to frame Kobe Bryant. He's a guy that has been known as sort of squeaky clean by some of his colleagues.

TOOBIN: We know so little about the facts. I don't even know the race of the accuser. I'm not prepared to say at this point that race has anything to do with it yet. But you can be certain that that issue will be raised very quickly if this case proceeds.

ZAHN: Thank you very much.

TOOBIN: Paula.

ZAHN: It's always nice to get inside the head of a district attorney, a la Jeffrey Toobin.

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