EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – The Eagle County district attorney and a prosecutor involved in the Kobe Bryant rape case both received controversial T-shirts bearing derogatory symbols and words about the basketball star but disposed of them, the district attorney's office said Friday.
The office of District Attorney Mark Hurlbert (search) issued a statement to clarify earlier comments made about the T-shirts. In October, the office said no one on staff ordered any shirts, which were distributed during the time of the preliminary hearing by representatives of the hangmantees.com company.
But the statement issued Friday said that the district attorney "has since learned that a request was made by some office support staff to order shirts."
A shirt was given to Hurlbert and prosecutor Greg Crittenden (search) "by an unknown source," the statement said. "Mr. Hurlbert immediately disposed of his and Mr. Crittenden did the same at a letter [sic] date. Neither wore or exposed said shirts."
"I apologize for being misleading, it was not at all intentional," Hurlbert said in the statement. "It was done without my knowledge or authorization."
The statement said an actual order was never placed, nor was any money paid for the T-shirts in question.
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.
The shirts show a hanging man on the front and a choice of two derogatory statements about Bryant on the back.
The statement says despite reports that the T-shirts depict Bryant being hanged, they actually refer to his infidelity.
"The shirts may be inappropriate, but they are certainly not racist," Hurlbert said in the statement. "I have taken action within my office to address this matter."
Saying he believes the T-shirt issued has detracted from the issue of the sexual assault charges against Bryant, Hurlbert added, "I hope this matter is put to rest and we can get on with the prosecution of this case."
Fox News had obtained an e-mail message ordering 76 shirts, written from the same sheriff's office that is investigating the case. It was written Oct. 16 — one week before the case was sent to trial.
Fox News learned that Bryant's attorneys 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 denied its employees attempted an order.
Fox News' Carol McKinley contributed to this report.