Thanks to Kobe Bryant, Eagle County is enjoying more than fifteen minutes of fame -- a lot more. The area around Vail was already home to plenty of bold-faced names, but there's none bolder than Kobe (in so many ways, judging from accounts of that late-June 2003 night at the Lodge at Cordillera). And with Kobe's sexual-assault trial now set for August 27, Eagle County officials are getting ready for their courthouse's close-up.
Here's one well-placed tipster's account of how the Eagle County Justice Center has been cleaned up for the Kobe era:
For most of this past year, I've been driving to Eagle County Courthouse, the tipster reports by e-mail. Up until one month ago, the only maintenance I've seen done on the courthouse is mowing the lawn. All of a sudden the media comes to town, and the following has been done:
1. Paving over perfectly good cement steps with more cement. The only difference is that the new cement is a little bit darker. As one judge sarcastically put it, "We now have the finest-looking cement in the county."
2. Waxing the courthouse hallway. I almost slipped now that it is so polished.
3. The creation of a new parking lot. It looks like it holds about eighty cars. Since the media left, I've seen only three cars park in the lot -- all district attorney automobiles.
4. Spraying down the outside of the courthouse with a mystery liquid. The sprayed rock looks exactly the same as the unsprayed rock.
5. Signs were put up directing persons to the jail, probation department, D.A.'s office, clerk's window, sheriff's office, etc. Admittedly, these signs should have been put up when "The Justice Center" was built. But why now?
6. A nicer-looking metal detector was purchased.
7. Filling the hairline cracks in the "old" parking lot with tar that matches the current tar.
8. Division 1 courtroom, the designated Kobe Bryant courtroom, received brand-spanking-new, thick-cushioned office chairs for the prosecution and defense tables. The only courtroom to get these chairs was the Kobe courtroom. The other two courtrooms have received nothing.
9. A private security company was hired to help the sheriff's office on Kobe court days. Prior to this private security company being hired, approximately fifteen additional sheriffs and five Eagle police officers were being used on Kobe days.
10. All sheriff employees are now wearing blue sport shirts with the Eagle County Sheriff's logo on them. These look much nicer than the regular jail uniforms and the street clothes the desk employees were wearing.
Hmmm... Coincidence or conspiracy?
"The building was built in 1986, and each year the county does do something as an improvement to insure that we standardize the growth of the building as it relates to the growth of the community," says Lieutenant Kim Andree, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff's Department. "Maintenance is very important to us. I think the concreting was a necessity after that fifteen-year period. I'm not sure that had anything to do with Mr. Bryant."
Nor, she insists, did the courtroom and fashion makeovers. "The new chairs for the room that the Bryant team uses were actually in before Mr. Bryant was ever charged," Andree explains. "It became a new magistrate's office, so all of the equipment was new, including recording equipment."
As for the shirts, they were introduced by Sheriff Joseph Hoy before he ever busted Kobe. "As the old sheriff left and the new sheriff came on, a new design and new logo was used and therefore a new shirt," she says.
But the new parking and signage are all about the legally challenged Laker. "The one thing that might have had something to do with Mr. Bryant is the parking lot," Andree admits. "Right after the case began, one of our commissioners came over for jury selection, and he actually had to walk from a mile away. So an evaluation of parking was done last fall, and then the county commissioners made a decision that we needed more parking. Now we have parking for 125 jurors plus the employees, and we don't have to park on the streets."
And so it goes in Eagle County. "A lot of people think we're growing because of this case," Andree concludes, "but we're growing because our population has doubled in the past ten years."
Movers and shakers: Last weekend, a nation of Internet activists got an early peek at Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, a new documentary that promises a fair, balanced and blistering look at the Fox News Channel. On Sunday, July 18, the film was shown in living rooms, warehouses, art galleries, classrooms and community centers from Anchorage to Atlantic City -- a sneak-preview effort organized by the California-based, web-driven political aggregate MoveOn.org. For weeks, MoveOn had urged its two million members to host simultaneous screenings, affording local Movers a rare chance to collectively cringe at a full-screen version of Bill O'Reilly (once an anchor at Denver's Channel 7, when his name was simply Bill Reilly and his politics were decidedly more centrist), to bash Bush and to share home-baked cookies and microwave popcorn.
MoveOn has already made inroads in this area -- a commercial by local filmmaker Charlie Fisher won the MoveOn Voter Fund's "Bush in 30 seconds" contest, although CBS declined to air it during the Super Bowl -- and many answered MoveOn's recent call. By last Friday, over 650 people had registered for 22 screenings across the metro area. As you might expect, participating venues in lefty land were packed: The Boulder Theater was elbow-room-only on Sunday night; organizers at the new Construct Creative Arts Space on Brighton Boulevard in Denver scheduled a second showing after nearly 200 people signed up. Even in Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock, suburban living rooms filled with folks eager to scope director Robert Greenberg's spin on the spin network.
Scene and herd: When Marilyn Megenity heads to the Democratic National Convention next week, she'll be leaving her biodiesel-powered car at home and flying to Boston. So far, Megenity is refusing to confirm or deny rumors that she plans to streak at the event.... The Safeway at 20th Avenue and Clarkson Street had a sudden malfunction with its shopping-cart ankle bracelets last week, and in the twenty minutes it took to get the problem repaired, nearly forty carts rolled off the premises and out of sight. A heyday for the homeless.
Colorado jurors can now ask questions at both civil and criminal trials, thanks to a recent decision by the Colorado Supreme Court. Under this new procedure, jurors can submit their own written questions after witnesses are questioned by both sides' attorneys -- with the judge determining which questions from the jury will be asked in open court.
The sex-assault trial of Kobe Bryant, set to start August 27, is the first high-profile case since the new rule took effect July 1; 900 jury summonses have already been sent to Eagle County residents. A few likely questions from the ones who wind up on the jury:
"Your Honor, was the defendant not aware that, other than Will Smith, black people aren't supposed to come to Vail?"
"What's Shaq like in person?"
"Kobe, if convicted and forced to pay the maximum fine of $750,000, which one of your earrings will you sell?"
"Why are you making such a big deal of this? I mean, it's not like he went all O.J. and killed the bitch, for Christ's sake."
"This is a mockery! I demand a writ of habeas corpus. And res ipsa loquitur, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, because you can't handle the truth. I'll put the system on trial! I'm sorry; I've just always wanted to do that. Hey, when does the dramatic courtroom music kick in?"
"Judge, should we refer to Mr. Bryant as Œprima donna' or 'alleged prima donna?'"
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"Ms. Mackey, where do you find those incredible pantsuits?"
"Will the court allow a twenty-minute recess so we can play HORSE with Kobe?"
"Mr. District Attorney, with that whole rape-shield thing...the press is out, but we still get to know the color of her panties, right? In the name of justice, I mean."
"Shouldn't the NBA be held accountable for drafting Kobe so young, thus robbing him of his entitled four years of collegiate-athlete date rape?" -- By Adam Cayton-Holland