All or Nothing for Kobe

August 17, 2003

You would not want to be Kobe Bryant now, sleeping each night on
a bed of Swiss army knives, your career, your future, your life
wobbling on a serrated edge.

It's all or nothing, innocent or guilty of rape, joyous freedom
or a kind of hell he can't even imagine. The two scenarios:

If Kobe Bryant is found innocent ... He will first collapse,
tearfully, into the arms of his wife, Vanessa, who never turned
on him, not through the ugliest moments of the trial, and it will
have gotten very ugly.

Then he will burst, jubilantly, out the courtroom doors--probably
in Grand Junction, Colo., where many experts think the trial will
be moved--to the cheers of a bizarre crowd of maybe 1,000, most
of them Lakers fans. They will be off the hook that their star is
off the hook. This will probably happen in early May 2004, with
the playoffs just kicking in.

"His endorsement career is dead either way," says a Lakers
executive, "but at that point, he won't give a damn."

But if Kobe Bryant is found guilty ... He will be instantly taken
by two deputy sheriffs to a life of degradation, humiliation and
loneliness. "Colorado sex-offense statutes are probably the
harshest in the country," says Denver trial attorney Bob
McAllister. "There's no worse place to commit a sex crime."

If he isn't eligible for bond, Bryant will spend around 60 days
simmering in a county cell. Either way, while he is awaiting
sentencing, he will likely be given a penile plethysmograph test,
in which an electric measuring band connected to a computer will
be placed around his penis. He will then be shown pornographic,
deviant and sex-abuse images, and the device will record his
level of arousal. The results of the test will be used to
determine the course of his rehabilitation treatment.

"It's all very Clockwork Orangish," says Dan Recht, former head
of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.

At sentencing, the judge will have three options: probation, the
community correction system, or state prison.

If Bryant gets into the community system, which is primarily for
nonviolent offenders, he will probably be sent to one of Denver's
community correction houses. It won't exactly be the Lodge & Spa
at Cordillera. He'll most likely share a matchbox room with
another sex offender. The bathroom will be down the hall.

His stay in the community system will last at least four years,
during which he will go through the Sex Offender Treatment
Program. Could he work while in the community system? Yes, if the
NBA will allow it, but almost certainly not for a company out of
the area. Hello, Denver Nuggets.

More likely the judge will send Bryant to prison and horrors he
never knew existed. That's no exaggeration.

Over the last five years convicted rapists in Colorado have
received "indeterminate" sentences--four years to life. Only when
they are deemed safe to reenter society are they allowed out.
"That's a very hard thing for a rapist to convince a parole board
of," says Denver defense attorney H. Michael Steinberg.

"Since this new sentencing scheme went into effect," says Recht,
"I don't know of anybody who's been paroled."

There will be a bus ride, likely to the Colorado State
Penitentiary in Canon City, where for the first year, "he will be
in a cell 23 hours out of 24," says McAllister. "He's famous so
the guards will make sure there's no appearance of favoritism.
They'll probably be harder on him, full-body cavity searches,
just to show him he isn't anything special."

Meanwhile, back in Eagle, Colo., his victim can sue him in civil
court and win. How much might she get? In Vail, attorneys are
guessing between $5 million and $10 million.

In prison Bryant will have to get through an exhaustive treatment
program, which "could take five to eight years to complete," says
Steinberg. The rehab will include group therapy, anger
management, admission of guilt and a listing of his "distorted
core beliefs about self, men, women, children, sex, family and
the world," according to the program's website.

Best case ... Bryant will be paroled in six years. He will be 31
and can play in the NBA again--if he still has the skills and can
find a taker. But he won't be living his old bling-bling NBA
life. He'll be required to inform his parole officer of his every
movement, by contacting the officer or by electronic bracelet or
GPS device. Some sex parolees are not allowed to be around anyone
18 or under. Under Megan's Law anytime Bryant changes his
address, he will have to register with the police as a sex
offender and his name will be placed on a list that is available
to the public.

After 10 years Bryant might be off parole and a relatively free
man. He would be 41 years old.

So that's it--all or nothing. A jury foreman steps up and, with a
few words, determines Bryant's future.

If it were me, I'd stop buying $4 million diamond rings and start
buying more $4 million lawyers.

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to
reilly@siletters.com.

B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER

"Colorado sex-offense statutes are probably the harshest in the
country. There's no worse place to commit a sex crime."

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