Kobe T-Shirts Cause Stink in Eagle County

Kobe Bryant has not yet entered a plea in the rape case against him, but some people closely involved with the case appear to have already made up their minds.

In October, employees of the Eagle County, Colo. (search) sheriff's and district attorney's offices put in orders for a shipment of anti-Kobe Bryant T-shirts.

Bryant, 25, is being prosecuted by the county after a young female mountain-resort worker claimed he raped her on June 30. He faces trial on a felony charge of sexual assault. Bryant has said the sex was consensual.

On the front of the T-shirts ordered by the county workers is a hanging man. On the back is a choice of two derogatory statements about the Los Angeles Lakers (search) basketball star.

An e-mail message ordering 76 shirts, obtained by Fox News, was written from the same sheriff's office that is investigating the case.

The message was written Thursday, Oct. 16 — one week before the case was sent to trial.

It specified an order for 76 of both types of the T-shirts, in sizes ranging from medium to triple-extra-large. It added that: "The order was for our office and the DA's office ... please give me a little more time to get with everyone to collect the $7 fee."

The T-shirts cost $12.95 in single units, but the two Eagle County offices ordered so many that they got the discount rate.

But because of questions asked by Fox News regarding the issue, the orders were never completed.

Legal observers say none of this is against the law, but is definitely unethical.

"Playing around with these kinds of T-shirts shows bias," sad Larry Pozner, former president of the Defense Attorneys' Association (search). "The DA's office does nobody any favors by making a joke out of it and by making it a cartoon-character issue.

"They're a cheering gallery now. They're rooting ... and they're supposed to be above it all," Pozner added. "They're supposed to say, 'Let's try our case in the courtroom, not on the street.'"

Bob Grant, district attorney for neighboring Adams County, said the issue would likely cause embarrassment for the Eagle County sheriff's and DA's offices.

"Perhaps it should," he added. "Cases should not get personal. They belong in the courtroom."

Fox News has learned that Bryant's attorneys had obtained the e-mail and were investigating, but Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy told Fox News that he wouldn't care if his employees did order the shirts, adding that he could not dictate what they wore off-duty.

The district attorney's office, on the other hand, denied its employees attempted an order.

The Bryant case has received so much pre-trial publicity that Judge Terry Ruckriegle on Friday issued an gag order to lawyers and law-enforcement officers barring them from voicing their personal opinions on Bryant's guilt or innocence.

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Fox News' Carol McKinley contributed to this report.