Town Marks 1 Year Since Start of Kobe Case

On her way to work each day as administrator of a health clinic, Roxie Deane drives past the courthouse in this formerly quiet mountain town where she was mayor for eight years.

Across the street from the gray-brick court building, she spots the lot that fills with satellite trucks whenever TV news crews flock to the hearings that have made this town a household name around the country.

Along the sidewalk, she sees wooden platforms where camera crews perch to frame shots of reporters and legal analysts discussing the latest developments in the rape case against basketball star Kobe Bryant (search).

"It's put Eagle on the map, but I don't know if it's the kind of attention this town wants to have," said Deane, who was in her eighth and final year as mayor when the case broke a year ago this week.

Much has happened since June 30, 2003 — the night Bryant is accused of forcing himself on a then 19-year-old hotel concierge.

The woman has been named in the tabloid press, the Internet and radio talk shows. Her mother said she has moved through four states trying to outrun tabloid reporters and private investigators hired by Bryant's attorneys.

She is so hounded she couldn't sing at a relative's wedding or see her younger friends graduate from her high school this spring.

At 25, Bryant remains one of the NBA's most bankable stars. He turned in stunning performances on the basketball court, even on nights when he had flown directly in from a hearing in Eagle.

In the past year, he has lost endorsements worth millions from McDonald's and from the Italian company that makes Nutella chocolate spread. Coca-Cola stopped airing Sprite ads featuring Bryant in early July, though the company said that was planned before Bryant's arrest.

If Bryant is acquitted, he probably will continue to play professional basketball, but will find it very difficult to find new endorsements, said David Carter, head of The Sports Business Group (search) marketing firm.

"It strikes me that most of these corporations want these spokespeople to come from central casting and not central booking," he said. "But the sports fans don't seem to care as much as I thought they would."

Bryant checked into the posh Lodge & Spa at Cordillera (search) near Edwards, Colo., about 15 miles from here, on June 30, 2003. He had slipped into town quietly for knee surgery at an exclusive clinic nearby.

The young hotel concierge went to his room willingly. She told investigators that after some consensual kissing, he became aggressive, grabbed her neck and raped her while she cried, saying "no" at least twice.

Bryant was charged with a felony count of sexual assault. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.

Bryant has pleaded not guilty, and in a tearful news conference alongside his wife, the new father said he had committed "the mistake of adultery" with a willing partner.

The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 27.

In this town about 130 miles west of Denver, residents have settled into an uncomfortable truce with the media. Reporters mostly stay on the north side of the Eagle River, near the courthouse and the motels, venturing to the largely residential south side just to eat at restaurants after court hearings.

At first overwhelmed, many of the 3,500 residents now are bemused at the constant attention and increasingly nervous about the possibility of being called for jury duty. Many also express empathy for a hometown girl whose life was turned upside-down.

"When it first started, the whole town was crawling with reporters, covering it from every angle. It was kind of amusing and some businesses got their 15 minutes of fame," said Cheryl Bottomley, co-owner of Aunt Betty's Recycled Reading, a used bookstore. "We're all kind of over it."