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Kobe Bryant Makes Court Appearance

Aired August 6, 2003 - 19:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight with the latest in the Kobe Bryant case, however. The first appearance the NBA star in a Colorado courtroom. Just an hour ago, a hearing was held in Eagle, Colorado, where Bryant heard the sexual assault charge he faces. It was a brief hearing but one that got a lot of attention. Deborah Feyerick is in Eagle with details on what happened today, and when Bryant's next hearing will take place. Deborah?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Kobe Bryant didn't want to be here and he certainly didn't linger. His plane touched down in Eagle, he came to court, took care of business, and within an hour he was back in the air on his way home.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Kobe Bryant looks somber as he entered the Eagle County courthouse. He did not acknowledge the handful of cheering fans who shouted his name as he walked from his three car motorcade. His wife, Vanessa, with was not with him, and he had no police escort, bringing instead his own security. The court appearance started at 4:00 on the dot Denver time. Bryant's lawyer, Pamela Mackey, waived her client's right to hear the sexual assault charge against him. The judge set a preliminary hearing for October 9, longer than the standard 30 days.

FREDERICK GANNETT, JUDGE: The rule requires that if you request that hearing be held within 30 days. Any objection to that being read?


FEYERICK: Those two words, "no, sir" were the only words Bryant spoke in court. The judge appointed a special investigator to look into alleged leaks, Bryant's lawyers charging law enforcement officers, including the sheriff, are talking to the media despite a court order prohibiting it. Then seven minutes after Kobe Bryant took his seat before the judge, he left.

The first phase of the sexual assault case against him over. Bryant then returned to the airport to the private jet waiting to take him home.


FEYERICK: Now a non-celebrity sexual assault case usually takes two days in this area, according to lawyers I've spoken to. But, they also tell me that this case could likely take a week, if not longer, and it could boil down to a battle of the experts -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Deborah Feyerick, thanks for the latest.

The lawyers for the NBA star had several possible choices in today's hearing. The October 9 date gives them a little more than two months to prepare their next move. The question is what is that move going to be. Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, assistant district attorney from San Francisco joins us from Colorado -- from Eagle -- to look at what could be the next steps.

Kimberly, thanks for being with us. First of all, let's talk about this preliminary hearing on October 9. They waived their 30 day right. Why did they waive it?

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE NEWSOM, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Because they're not going to be ready to proceed in that short of amount of time, and in fact, it's a good strategy by the defense because they're going to have to secure forensic medical experts to come to testify on Kobe Bryant's behalf. As you mentioned earlier in the piece it's going to come down to a battle of the experts in addition to he said/she said. Keep in mind, at the time of the preliminary hearing we will get all the facts in this case, the things contained within the arrest warrants, the affidavits that right now are presently under seal, and we will see actually what occurred and what prosecution has alleged as a basis for physical force used in this case.

COOPER: Looking at what the defense has been doing thus far, do you think they believe that time is on their side? I mean, they pushed this hearing to October 9. They could have had it within 30 days. Are they hoping that that time is their friend?

NEWSOM: Well, in fact, this is what we see. It's very common. We call it age the case. And the defense is always willing to do it. They would like to put this case off as far as possible. Especially when you deal with a case like this, sexual assault where victims oftentimes have struggles during the course of these proceedings where their feelings are conflicted about proceeding forward, memories fade, et cetera. So it's definitely a strategy on their part, and Kobe Bryant with unlimited resources, be prepared to see the best of the best in forensics center stage in Eagle.

COOPER: It's interesting to me, I mean, I think all along, Kobe Bryant has been very aware of public relations battle that he must wage at the same time as this. Obviously, this is a very closely followed thing. Two things to note in court today. His wife was not present, and also they waived -- his lawyers waived the right to hear the charges against him. Why do you think he did that? I mean, was it a public relations move?

NEWSOM: I think it was smart move on behalf of his attorney, Pamela Mackey. She did not want the world to see and have footage of Kobe Bryant being advised specifically and the charges read against him for forcible sexual assault, a rape crime. That was a smart move. And I have to say, it is customary in every case, oftentimes they will waive their right to have the charges formally read against them. So not surprising, but we thought with this case that they actually might go through the advisement, and the court did not do that.

With respect to his wife, Vanessa, she has been by his side making a public statement, professing her belief in her husband's innocence. They both had matching bracelets the other night. I love Vanessa -- I love Kobe. Interesting that she didn't appear today. But in fact, I'm sure he wanted to spare his wife kind of this public spectacle and frenetic crazies that we see here in Eagle. It was interesting to see the people cheering outside the courtroom when Kobe entered and when he left.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it takes on all the elements of a circus at this point. So much a frenzy building around this thing. What do we expect between now and this October 9 preliminary hearing? I mean, we already have heard stories about detectives, private detectives, combing through Eagle, Colorado, looking for information. Does that only intensify?

NEWSOM: Yes. It's all anyone's talking about near Eagle and everybody's got some story, some third related connection to the victim in this case. And I think you're going see a lot of investigators continuing to go to find information and dig up things on her past. It's what we call dirtying the victim in this case. Unfortunately, it happens in sexual assault cases across the country and it's a common practice. But again, Kobe Bryant won't say that it's anything that he specifically is trying to achieve.

COOPER: And just very briefly, will the alleged victim be at this preliminary hearing? What happens at this hearing?

NEWSOM: That's a really good point. It's going to be interesting to see whether or not the prosecution is going to put her forward. Oftentimes in sexual assault-domestic violence cases, you want the victim to testify so you can preserve her testimony in case she recants, becomes uncooperative, or refuses to cooperate in the future, especially with a case like this that could take some time before it gets to trial.

Keep in mind, the defense would love to have a first bite at her to vigorously cross examine her in this case and nail her statement down so that if she testifies in court, it will become a credibility issue between herself and Kobe Bryant. If she makes any inconsistent statements they will be used against her, and that is what it is going to come down to. Who do you believe, Kobe Bryant or the accuser in this case.

COOPER: All right. Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom in Eagle. Thanks very much, Kimberly.


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