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Key Figure in Bryant Case Has Seizure

Gregory Crittenden, a deputy district attorney, had to be hospitalized last week. Investigators trying to determine source of leaks to media.

August 28, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

The quiet of the Eagle County Courthouse on Wednesday belied a burst of activity behind closed doors in the district attorney's and sheriff's offices.

While investigators launched a probe into improper leaks to the media pertaining to the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert was questioned about the health of his top assistant.

Gregory Crittenden, who along with Hurlbert and one other deputy district attorney is handling the prosecution of Bryant, had a seizure during a murder trial Friday and was taken to a hospital in an ambulance.

"He had spasms, his eyes were rolling, the whole bit," an eyewitness said. "It was pretty horrible."

The episode occurred during a conference with the judge and defense attorneys at about 8:30 a.m., shortly before closing arguments were to begin. Hurlbert said Crittenden later told him that the seizure was the result of not eating that morning and not sleeping well.

Crittenden has experienced seizures in the past, although Hurlbert said this was his first in a courtroom. Hurlbert also said he does not believe Crittenden's history of seizures would jeopardize his ability to help prosecute Bryant, a Laker guard and five-time NBA All-Star who faces four years to life in prison if convicted of the felony charge.

"It really is not a concern to me at all," Hurlbert said. "He has to make sure and take care of himself. It happened because he hadn't been eating and hadn't been sleeping."

Crittenden made the prosecution's arguments during Bryant's bond hearing three weeks ago and is expected to have a key role as the case moves toward trial. Hurlbert and Ingrid Bakke, a district attorney on loan from Boulder County, are the only other prosecutors working full-time on the case. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Oct. 9.

Crittenden is on what spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said was a "previously scheduled" vacation until Sept. 6. Flannigan said the episode was not an epileptic seizure.

"All I know is, he has had them before, but none since he joined the [Eagle County] D.A.'s office [last spring]," she said. "He has a low seizure threshold."

Fellow prosecutor Phil Smith gave closing arguments Friday in the high-profile murder trial, which resulted in an acquittal for Kathleen Denson, a wealthy rancher and fur-shop owner who admitted to shooting her ex-boyfriend but said she did so in self-defense.

Hurlbert said he was unsure whether Crittenden would have made the closing arguments had he not been stricken. Legal experts said that trying the Bryant case will only add to the pressure felt by prosecutors.

"I'm sure the district attorney's office is experiencing a lot of stress," said Craig Silverman, former chief deputy district attorney in Denver. "And so is the defense. Stress increases exponentially when you have a case like People v. Kobe Bryant. It's only normal."

Meanwhile, the heat was turned up on employees of the sheriff's department and district attorney's office, who were interrogated by three Pitkin County investigators trying to determine the source of leaks to the media.

Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett ordered the probe after Bryant's defense attorneys filed a motion Aug. 5 asking that all law enforcement officers who have participated in the investigation be questioned under oath about alleged leaks of information from sealed court files.

"It's not that the [published] information mimicked the information in the court file, but I chose to address it," Gannett said after issuing the order.

Bryant, 25, says he had consensual sex with his accuser in an Edwards, Colo., hotel room June 30. The 19-year-old Eagle woman, who worked at the hotel, says the sex was forced.

Eagle County Sheriff Joseph Hoy said he does not believe the leaks came from his office. In addition, he said information reported about what occurred between Bryant and the accuser in the hotel room probably did not come from anyone who has seen the sealed material.

"It sounds to me like third-hand hearsay," he said. "Or it is someone patching together bits and pieces of things they heard."

Also interviewed were employees in the district attorney's office who might have had access to the sealed documents, which Hurlbert keeps in a locked safe. The investigative team headed by Joe DiSalvo will return Friday to complete the interviews.

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