Kobe’s accuser takes the stand
EAGLE – Round one begins.
She is the eye of the hurricane when she walks into Courtroom 1 Wednesday morning.
The courthouse hallway runs due east and west. At the far east end, 50 feet away, some of her family members arrive, walking through the heavy door, creating a slight diversion. The throng of reporters, locked out of the courtroom Wednesday and today, turn to look – to observe, to gawk.
The fire exit door opens across the hall from Courtroom 1 and there she is. The story, in person, but only half the story. She was, for a time, the most sought-after name on the Internet and now here she is.
She is not virtual. She is real.
Tall, striking, appearing resolute, her shoulder-length blonde hair is tinted slightly red and hanging straight down. She is dressed in a black shirt and black blazer, tan slacks and black shoes with heels that lift her taller than her 5-foot 9-inch height.
In just a few seconds she strides across the hall, her face purposeful and determined. She looks at no one. Her eyes do not venture left or right. The fight is on. Her hands are balled into loose fists as she clears the threshold of the courtroom door.
She makes no eye contact with anyone – especially defendant Kobe Bryant, the man charged with the felony crime of raping her on June 30 at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.
She walks directly to the witness stand. The courtroom door closes. The watching world is locked out. She is alone.
It is 8:45 a.m., March 24, 2004.
Her family, her father and mother, remain at the east end of the hall, about 50 feet away – away from reporters, away from everyone who wants to ask the obvious question: “What happened that night?”
On the other side of that closed door, their daughter is with people who are serious about their work – the placement and deflection of blame. Some want to place blame on Bryant. Some want to deflect blame from Bryant toward her.
Her father does what fathers do when their children are out of sight, potentially in harm’s way. He stands, paces, chats with the court staffers who chat in return, he sits, he stands, he paces, he fidgets.
He looks at the door, his daughter’s door. It remains closed.
Her mother sits on a bench and looks at a book. She looks up. She stands up. Her gaze joins her husband’s as they look up the hall at the door. It remains closed.
She waits. She looks toward the western end of the hallway like she’s looking for the end of one long day and the dawn of the next, when the world has turned and life can begin again.
Time crawls past as the parents look at the courtroom door. It remains closed. Their daughter remains behind it.
She is 19, too young for many of the privileges that come with the legal status of adulthood. Not too young to have been drafted not so long ago and die in the military service of her country. Wednesday morning she faced a different type of combat and enemy fire.
A couple of hours after she entered the door, she reappears. They’re on a break. She appears relaxed and as she makes her way up the hall she laughs at a wisecrack from her attorney. She talks briefly with her mother and father. The prosecutors are smiling as they head east, up the hallway. They haven’t smiled much since July 18, when Bryant was charged with sexual assault.
They file back into Courtroom 1. The door closes.
Again, she is alone. Again, the minutes crawl past.
Finally, at 12:35 p.m., the door opens and everyone in the hallway stands.
Her mother and father stand. They wait. Their daughter’s door is no longer closed.
An armed, uniformed sheriff’s deputy holds the door. She thanks him as she emerges. She again looks purposeful, stern, as do the prosecutors who follow her. A district attorney’s investigator accompanies her across the hall and through the fire exit door, which swings closed behind her as she strides up the hallway and into privacy.
Her parents disappear into the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Somewhere inside they will reunite with their child.
Then Bryant emerges, in a brown pinstriped suit, dark shirt and gold tie. He looks grim. No matter how well or poorly he plays, the Lakers game Wednesday night will be the highlight of his day. His countenance as he leaves Courtroom 1 makes it clear that this has not been a high point.
His attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, emerge. They smile softly as they pass the line of reporters and head to lunch. What does that mean? Talking heads will opine about it all night and into today, but no one knows.
They do know this: Both Bryant and his alleged victim have the look of someone who has been under fire and know they will be again.
They will battle again.
Round one ends.
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