Kobe hearing good for business owners

Updated: October 5, 2003, 3:43 PM ET
Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. -- When the television trucks roll into town this week to cover Kobe Bryant's court hearing, Daysi Spath will be ready.

In a black sport utility vehicle with "Bonjour Bakery" written on the windows, Spath is offering to deliver breakfast, lunch and lattes to news media crews in a lot across the street from the Eagle County Courthouse.

"The only good thing is that Kobe Bryant is bringing business to this town," she said.

The town of about 3,500 is gearing up for another onslaught of reporters, camera crews and spectators at Bryant's preliminary hearing Thursday in the sexual assault case.

This time, residents in the town about 125 miles west of Denver say they are better prepared.

Town officials are preparing a packet of information about businesses, such as Spath's bakery, to distribute to arriving reporters.

The county has rented a lot across the street from the courthouse and subleased it to television networks for $10,000. Networks have chipped in another $5,000 to cover everything from portable toilets to tables and chairs in a tent set up as a press center.

The county also paved a field behind the prosecutor's office for extra parking, a project it completed early because of the Bryant case, assistant county administrator Becky Gadell said.

The county isn't making any money from the lot rentals, but is serving as broker so the owner did not have to make individual arrangements with dozens of organizations.

"Our objective here is to balance public safety and insure a calm environment so that everyone can do their job -- the court, the media, the parties," she said.

Bryant, 25, is accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in June at a nearby resort. Free on $25,000 bond, the NBA star was at the Los Angeles Lakers' training camp in Honolulu over the weekend.

Bryant has denied the charges, saying he was guilty only of adultery.

Authorities are also planning extra security for Thursday's hearing because of threats against the prosecutor's office, the judge and others involved in the case.

During Thursday's hearing, the judge will determine if there is enough evidence to hold Bryant for trial. If Bryant's attorneys choose to waive the hearing and head straight for trial, he still will have to appear in court for a bond hearing.

In August, a mini-community of satellite trucks, TV crews and reporters descended on this town for Bryant's initial court appearance, which lasted about seven minutes. Motels had "no vacancy" signs, and restaurants did booming business.

Business during the summer and into the fall was twice as good as it was this time last year because of reporters and curious people who have stopped in Eagle, Spath said.

Lodging owners say rooms already are scarce in the town, which also is preparing for the start of big-game hunting season. Signs have been posted to welcome hunters on the heels of reporters.

Feelings among residents are mixed about the attention.

A columnist in the Eagle Valley Enterprise remarked that no hunter has mistaken a television reporter for an elk -- yet.

Jay Townsend, who owns a gift shop and interior design firm, thinks news stories mentioning Eagle or the nearby resort town of Vail are ultimately good because such media attention might spark an interest in visiting the area. "The light bulb goes on in their head whenever they read about Eagle County," he said.

But Irene Olive, a supervisor at Summit Lumber, said Bryant's previous appearance disrupted deliveries to their lumber yard. There were so many cars parked illegally on the street that the semitrailers could not maneuver into the lot.

No matter what their opinion is on the case, residents are irked that so many have the idea that the former ranching town is full of cowboys.

"We've had gaslights for a while and we're going to get computers next," quipped Olive.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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