Craig's Court: A Tale Of Two Shirts

Posted Dec. 8, 2003

It was the best of T-shirts. It was the worst of T-shirts.

Eagle County law enforcement has possession of a white Nike T-shirt worn by Kobe Bryant on the night of June 30 containing a slight blood smear on its inside front bottom. This stain has been identified as coming from the bloody and injured posterior forchette of Bryant's 19-year-old alleged rape victim. The Eagle County district attorney wants to use that bloody white T-shirt to convict Bryant. It may be People's Exhibit One.

A different Bryant T-shirt has now become an official issue in the case. These "joke" T-shirts have an image of a hanging man on the front in the style of the child's game "Hangman." One model of the T-shirt says on the back "I am not a rapist. I'm just a cheater." Another version is a take off on the credit card commercial containing the following: "First class plane ticket, $600; hotel room, $5000; Surgery, $25,000; Not bringing your wife to Colorado with you, PRICELESS. K_B_ BRY-NT."

These T-shirts were produced by hangmantees.com and according to published reports based on e-mails emanating from the Sheriff's Office, an Eagle County law enforcer ordered 78 of them, ranging in size from medium to triple extra large. Are there even 78 deputies in the Eagle County Sheriff's Department? Could one of those triple extra larges be for Detective Doug Winters?

Who thought it was wise or funny to have an image of a lynching in a case involving the alleged rape of a white woman by a black man? In fact, the "cheater" version says exactly what Kobe Bryant has told us, "I committed the sin of adultery but I am innocent of rape." Does that mean that the Eagle County sheriff's deputies endorse that theory?

Team Kobe wants to know the answer to these questions and in a motion just filed, they are asking Judge Ruckreigle to help them find out. Simultaneously, the defense team has filed another motion asking Judge Ruckreigle for a chance to inspect Kobe Bryant's bloody T-shirt and any and all of the other clothing collected from the accuser and the accused at the hospital. More than that, Team Kobe wants these items of clothing transported to a defense expert in California for some laboratory examination.

Here's what I think will happen. Like most leak investigations, no answers will probably ever be found. As for the clothing inspection, Judge Ruckreigle will surely allow the defense expert to have a good look. The only question is whether he will risk sending the stuff to California. They have fires out there. Floods and earthquakes too.

Most of this is sideshow stuff. Team Kobe would like to shift the embarrassing Eagle County 78 T-shirt story to center stage. With their motion, Team Kobe is blowing the equivalent of 78 trombones to get the public to notice this further evidence of Eagle County ineptitude. Even with all the noise, this story has a limited shelf life. It is sort of like the lame jokes of the Santa Barbara DA at his Michael Jackson press conference. Humor is all about timing. The timing of these weak jokes was way wrong.

The other motion may lead to some important stuff. Was there a lot or a little blood on Kobe's Nike T-shirt? Evidence at the preliminary hearing suggested very little which could minimize the impact of any injury the woman suffered during the admitted sexual intercourse. The most interesting question is whether examination by a Team Kobe expert can yield further clues regarding who deposited the unidentified non-Kobe Bryant semen stain in the accuser's yellow knit underwear -- and when? That could be center stage stuff.

Craig Silverman is a legal analyst for 7NEWS. He will be contributing his thoughts on the Kobe Bryant case in the months to come. He works for the downtown Denver law firm of Silverman and Olivas, P.C., which you can contact through their Web site or by calling (303) 595-0529. You can read Craig's bio here.

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