Craig's Court: Strength In Numbers, Weakness Without

Posted May 25, 2004

Rape is an abomination. Thankfully, most men are mentally and physically incapable of the act. For a normal man, there is nothing sexually stimulating about a cowering frightened female who wants to leave. Sadly, there are some men who are turned on by this circumstance. For these criminals, rape fulfills some sick desire for power and subjugation.

Such people need to be identified and isolated. Failure to do so presents a huge danger that the behavior will be repeated. Men who like to rape, just like people with normal needs, generally strive with frequency to satisfy their basic desires.

Rape is without doubt an underreported crime. Victims fail to report for a variety of reasons. Our state recognizes that fact in a statement of law. Colorado's criminal code explains that many sexual assault victims fail to report because of "the personal indignity, humiliation, and embarrassment involved in the offenses themselves; and the fear of further personal indignity, humiliation, and embarrassment in connection with investigation and prosecution:

    "These offenses usually occur under circumstances in which there are no witnesses except for the accused and the victim, and, because of this and the frequent delays in reporting, there is often no evidence except for the conflicting testimony. Moreover, there is frequently reluctance on the part of others to believe that the offenses occurred because of the inequality between the victim and the perpetrator."

This language comes from a law passed by our Colorado legislature which tells judges to make special evidentiary allowances in sexual assault prosecutions. Instead of the normal rule of evidence which looks skeptically on admission of other misconduct by the accused, this Colorado law turns the presumptions around. The legitimate justification is set forth in the preamble to the law itself:

    "Sex offenders are extremely habituated. As a result, such offenders often commit numerous offenses involving sexual deviance over many years, with the same or different victims, and often, but not necessarily, through similar methods or by common design. The general assembly reaffirms and reemphasizes that, in the prosecution of sexual offenses, including in proving the corpus delicti of such offenses, there is a greater need and propriety for consideration by the fact finder of evidence of other relevant acts of the accused, including any actions, crimes, wrongs, or transactions, whether isolated acts or ongoing actions and whether occurring prior to or after the charged offense. The general assembly finds that such evidence of other sexual acts is typically relevant and highly probative, and it is expected that normally the probative value of such evidence will outweigh any danger of unfair prejudice, even when incidents are remote from one another in time."

All this brings us to the big underreported revelation of Kobe Bryant's day of arraignment earlier this May. The prosecution has no evidence of similars on the part of this defendant. That announcement was made in open court. One would have thought that if such evidence existed, the Eagle DA would have it. After all, no woman who had a bad sexual encounter with Bryant could have conceivably avoided news of his arrest and prosecution. Even if the other victims failed to come forward, someone who they told about the incident could have dropped a dime.

We know that DA Investigators flew around the country looking for women who might have had a negative sexual encounter with this LA Laker. A young female hotel employee in Portland, Oregon received an unexpected visit from Eagle law enforcement. It seems Tara Vilhauer, who often delivered room service to Kobe Bryant's room, was one day asked by Bryant to have a seat on a sofa in his room. Conversation was followed by a kiss from the married man. Ms. Vilhauer kissed back and then said, "This can't happen. I have a boyfriend. You have a wife. This is not going to happen." Bryant said, "That's cool," and Ms. Vilhauer left without further incident.

See what I mean about people repeatedly seeking to fulfill desires. Kobe Bryant had likely committed other acts of adultery and attempted adultery prior to his encounter with the Cordillera employee in Eagle County. But other alleged rapes? Not a single one could apparently be found. That is what the DA admitted in open court on May 12, 2004 when Bryant was arraigned.

There is strength in numbers. There is weakness without. The biggest fear that Kobe Bryant's legal defense team had to have was that the prosecution would produce similar bad act evidence. Few if any criminal defenses have ever overcome such evidence. Their worries in this regard are apparently now over. It is looking more and more like a defense verdict will be coming to an Eagle County Colorado courtroom late this summer.

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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