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Man Offering to Kill for Bryant Accepts Plea Deal

Los Angeles

April 20, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Charges of solicitation to commit murder were dismissed Monday against an El Segundo man who had offered to kill Laker basketball star Kobe Bryant's accuser. In exchange, the defendant pleaded no contest to grand theft.

Prosecutors said they offered Patrick Graber the deal because he wasn't so much a killer as he was a con artist.

"His main goal was to get money," Deputy Dist. Atty. Marguerite Rizzo said. "We felt this was an appropriate plea in this case."

Graber, 31, a Swiss national, initially was charged with solicitation to kill the woman who had accused Bryant of rape, and with solicitation to dissuade a witness. But prosecutors dismissed those charges Monday in exchange for his no-contest plea to one count of grand theft. He faces up to three years in prison when he returns to court for sentencing May 13.

Graber was arrested in a sting last September at a Ralphs supermarket in El Segundo, where he expected to pick up $1 million from one of Bryant's bodyguards, authorities said. Instead, he was met by undercover officers, who arrested him as soon as he opened a satchel filled with fake money.

Investigators began plotting the sting Sept. 8, when Bryant's bodyguards told the Sheriff's Department they had received a letter from someone who offered to make the basketball star's current legal problems "go away" for $3 million.

The letter writer called himself "Yuri" and cited connections to the Russian mafia.

He demanded $1 million in advance.

An investigation found that Graber had no ties to Russian organized crime but had convictions for fraud and theft in Switzerland.

He also was charged with grand theft for allegedly defrauding a woman he met at a Gold's Gym in Los Angeles.

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