DENVER – Prosecutors say they are treating Los Angeles Lakers (search) superstar Kobe Bryant (search) like any other person suspected of sexual assault. But Eagle County sheriff's investigators didn't reveal his arrest until two days later, when he already was released on bail.
"There wasn't any urgency. We felt we were doing the right thing for everyone involved," Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said. "We wanted to give people the time to themselves to adjust" because of the July 4 holiday.
An arrest warrant accuses the 24-year-old Bryant of attacking a woman at a resort in Eagle County (search) on June 30. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said it could be days before he decides whether to file charges.
Defense attorney Pamela Mackey said Bryant "expects to be completely exonerated." She said the five-time All-Star had been in Colorado for knee surgery at Vail's Steadman Hawkins Clinic.
Hoy said investigators learned of the allegations on July 1 and spent nearly 30 hours on the case before contacting Bryant.
It is unclear when the arrest warrant was issued. Sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Andree said investigators told Bryant about the arrest warrant on Thursday. Bryant flew back to Colorado on Friday, surrendered to authorities and was released on $25,000 bail. Hoy waited until Sunday to announce the arrest.
Bryant's police mug shot isn't being released and the court documents have been sealed.
"That treatment would not be accorded the average citizen," Robert Pugsley, a criminal law professor at Los Angeles' Southwestern School of Law, said Monday. "An arrest warrant is something you find out about when an officer knocks on your door at your home or your office or anywhere.
"Most judges, let alone police, don't get to rub shoulders with famous people, he said. "The gruff-like manner in which they treat us disappears and all of a sudden they treat the celebrity with kid gloves.
"Other people would be handcuffed immediately, thrown into a squad car and taken downtown," he said.
Mackey claimed the district attorney's office didn't believe investigators had sufficient information to get a warrant or to justify criminal charges. She said the decision by the sheriff's office to seek an arrest warrant directly from a judge, instead of following the usual practice of making the request through the district attorney's office, showed "complete bias."
Scott Robinson, a Denver criminal defense attorney, said it isn't unusual for investigators to obtain an arrest warrant without the consent of prosecutors.
"It happens all the time, but it doesn't involve an NBA star," he said.
"Bringing sex assault charges against anybody is a serious undertaking. If anything, the prosecution should be commended that they want to be sure they can convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt before filing charges," he said.