Chat with John Pineau
John Pineau (4:59 PM)
I am here and ready to answer your questions!
Eric, Long Beach
Today's court will be short and sweet from what I've read. Is there anything that could/would surprise us from what will go on?
John Pineau (5:01 PM)
ANYTHING can happen. It's unlikely, about a million to one, but anything can happen. The surprises that are slimly anticiapted are they waive the preliminary hearing and set an immediate trial date. Going to the extreme, they could drop the case or Kobe Bryant could plead guilty today. In the real world, this proceeding would take 30-60 seconds in a normal case.
John (New York)
If Kobe were to plead guilty to a lesser offense, what would it typically be and what would be the penalty?
John Pineau (5:07 PM)
Good question.. it's nearly impossible under the 1998 Lifetime Offender act to plead to a lesser charge that would be so low he would avoid lifetime supervision or imprisonment. The problem is that only the lowest petty offense that involves sexual misconduct, avoids consequences like registering to be a sexual offender, avoiding contact with anyone under the age of 18, and being involved in mandatory sex offense specific treatment which necessarily would require Mr. Bryant to undergo polygraph and plesimigraph testing (a test that involves placing an electronic device on the penis and then showing various forms of proper and improper sex conduct - pornography - to see if the test subject reacts inappropriately to certain pictures.
If you were the judge in this case would u allow for the venue to change. Or would u do as this judge did and have it remain in this county.
John Pineau (5:09 PM)
If the facts supported the change, I would have to do it. What parties do in these types of cases is present the judge with a vast array of facts that show the defendant can't receive a fair trial. If they can put those facts in front of the judge, he is obligated to change the venue.
Mike in Texas
If you were Kobe's lawyers, would you be worried about an anti-OJ verdict backlash, especially if the jury is mostly white? Is something like that the sort of possibility they will have to prepare for?
John Pineau (5:10 PM)
I think the attorney's on the case are extremely skilled and will anticipate and offset that type of dynamic and thousands of others that we can't even begin to imagine. Around the clock his attorney's are doing everything they can to assure a fair trial.
Walter (Raleigh, NC)
To even dream of charging such a high profile, beloved, and wealthy client as Kobe the prosecutor has to have several strong pieces of evidence, right? He wouldn't put the reputation of Kobe, Colorodo, and himself up as an offering simply on the testimony of one girl and some fellow teenagers, would he?
John Pineau (5:12 PM)
Not necessarily. Prosecutors are elected officials and I think the best course from the prosecutor in many cases in light of the considerations they have to function under, is to take the close cases to trial. The prosecutor can't appear to be weak on crime.
John Pineau (5:13 PM)
Generally speaking, it's the closer cases that do go to trial. The simple cases are plea bargained or dismissed. The cases where there is clear guilt, the defendant tends to take a plea.
Let's just say for a minute that this does go to trial and he is convicted what will happen at the sentencing? Do you think he gets probation or jail time or both?
John Pineau (5:17 PM)
If he were to get jail time, it's a mandatory life sentence. That's because of the recent changes in Colorado law. If he gets probation, he could still end up with a mandatory life sentence in the Department of Corrections, prison. For example, is he gets probation, it will be for an incredibly long term, typically 10-20 years. The success rate of sex offenders on probation in Colorado, the number that successfully complete probation, is nearly zero. It's not due to new criminal acts, it's because the offense specific treatment is strikingly severe and difficult to complete and added to that is the fear of the treatment providers to release anyone from probation because of their concern that they might be held responsible is the offender reoffends. The result is the offenders stay on probation forever or are revoked, sent back to the court where the court is place in a position of sentencing the offender to the mandatory life sentence that is required under Colorado law for sex offenders.
I'm a paralegal who has worked on various criminal cases. My question is whether or not you think Bryant should testify. It doesn't seem like he has many other witnesses that could support him, at least not yet. It looks like the case will hinge on cross-examination of the alleged victim. Do you think that the defense will want to put Kobe on the stand to hear his story, or is the potential cross from the prosecution too dangerous to risk?
John Pineau (5:19 PM)
In every case like this, you prepare your client to testify but hold off making the decision to just before he takes the stand. If the case is going remarkably well, the reasonable decision is to not place the client on the stand. If it is close or you feel you are behind you reevaluate whether your client should testify.
Chendo (Austin, TX)
Mr. Pineau, How much do you think this case will cost Kobe in lawyer/legal fees? Also, how much does his celebrity status affect these costs?
John Pineau (5:20 PM)
Nobody wants to spend money on criminal defense attorney's!! If he spends $500,000, it's $500,000 more than he wants to.
John Pineau (5:21 PM)
Allen Ransom (Warner Robins, GA)
Can Kobe settle this out of court?
John Pineau (5:21 PM)
kevin (seattle, wa)
Will the accuser have to be present today at the hearing, why or why not?
John Pineau (5:22 PM)
No. The accuser does not have to be there. She is just a witness in the state's case against Mr. Bryant. Today's hearing amounts to a scheduling appearance to calendar some future dates.
Brian, Los Angeles
Is is it typical for a case to be reviewed by several top prosecutors throughout the State of Colorado before charges are filed? Do you feel that this should give the DA of Eagle Counry more confidence as he begins to try this case?
John Pineau (5:23 PM)
No. It is not typical. Sure, it will give the DA more confidence. I actually graduate with Mr. Hurlbert. He is a very nice guy. I'm sure he is trying to do the very best job he can. In doing that, I think he made the right decision to talk to other sources before he made his decision to charge.
How does Kobe's former reputation affect his chances in a trial?
John Pineau (5:25 PM)
His reputation will be a factor that's likely to work both ways. His positive image will make the jury more familiar with him than they would be with a stranger as a defendant. His celebrity might make him appear to be overly entitled and work against him.
You might not be the right person to ask, but if Kobe were to go to jail, would the Lakers still be responsible for paying his salary?
John Pineau (5:25 PM)
I don't know the answer to that but I would assume his contact probably has a provision that terminates the Lakers need to pay due to a felony conviction.
What do you think is the best defense for Kobe?
John Pineau (5:27 PM)
The ideal defense is something you only arrive at after reviewing every scrap of evidence, talking to every single witness, testing theories with other attorney's, friends, strangers walking down the street, kids at a bus stop, and then losing weeks and weeks of sleep thinking about it. Only at that moment do you come to the best possible explanation for why things happened the way they did and why it was not a crime.
Do you think that Kobe will be involved in a civil suit? Also how do you feel on the outcome of Kobe criminal litigation.
John Pineau (5:28 PM)
I have no idea. A civil suit at this time would put a serious negative mark on the credibilty of the victim.
David Gig Harbor:
If this wann't a high profile case, how long would an actual trial last.
John Pineau (5:29 PM)
A lot of people have the case of their career at stake here. The case will be presented in intense detail by both sides.
How do you feel about Mark Cuban's statement that the NBA will benefit from this trial?
John Pineau (5:30 PM)
I have no idea how that will affect anything.
LeRoy, Naples, Fl
Which party benefits the most from all of the pre trial publicity?
John Pineau (5:32 PM)
I'm not sure which party will benefit in the long run as it relates to the verdict. But generally speaking, the defense always wants to keep their client out of the papers when they have been charged with a terrible crime. Whether the client is substantiated or not, the client always suffers.
If a guy like OJ Simpson can be found not guilty, why not Kobe Bryant? Kobe had a squeaky-clean image and is being accused by a girl with a checkered past - is there any real chance they find Kobe guilty?
John Pineau (5:33 PM)
It all comes down the facts that are presented to the jury. There is no way, unless you are in the courtroom everyday and see every piece of evidence and hear every word of testimony, and even more important in a case like this, the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses, that you can know what the verdict should be.
PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION!!!!!!!!!If Kobe is convicted but is sentenced to 20 years to life of probation, will he still be able to play basketball, or is there a rule in the NBA where sex offenders are not allowed to play?
John Pineau (5:36 PM)
There are two sides to this .. there may be a provision in his contract that allows the contract to terminate if he is placed on felony probation. Probation, in addition to the ugly features we talked about earlier, can come with 180 days of straight jail as a condition of probation in Colorardo. On the other side, the conditions of probation may prohibit him from working in the NBA. For example, he is certain to have a condition that he can't have contact with children under the age of 18. He could end up with an ankle monitor. That could hinder his performance. There are a number of conditions that are so onnerous that it could make it difficult to continue on with his career.
Do you think that the evidence permitted will be tainted by the accusser's unstable history?
John Pineau (5:38 PM)
If the unstable history is ruled to be admissable, it will definately taint her reliability and credibility. If the unstable history is unadmissable, the jury will be instructed to not consider facts not presented in the trial. But it may be that some of the unstable facts reported in the press bleed into the jury's unconscious deliberation.
Do you think it was a bad idea for Kobe to make it known in public that he actually had sex with the accuser?
John Pineau (5:40 PM)
No. The basis for establishing credibility with a jury is to admit all the facts including the unflattering ones. In fact, in particular, the unflattering facts. If the defendant's version of the case is abnormaly squeaky clean, it's not believable. He needs to stress his mistakes and by doing so establishes himself as a normal human being.
John Pineau (5:41 PM)
Credibility is KING in a date rape trial.
What would make the judge not allow evidence about the victims past?
John Pineau (5:42 PM)
There are a variety of reasons, only a handful I can recall right now. One would be that it's just not relevant. Also, it may be relevant but more prejudicial than probitive (tending to prove a material fact).
Melody (New York, NY)
Your comments have mostly been about how Kobe's lawyers can best defend him. What would you focus on if you were the prosecutor in this case?
John Pineau (5:43 PM)
I've never prosecuted before. But my friends who do tell me that their principal focus is to simplify the facts and provide a simple, clear, coherent story and stick to it.
Does Kobe have any legal recourse against Colorado or the alleged victim if he is found not-guilty?
John Pineau (5:45 PM)
Technically he might in that he could conceivably have a basis to claim abuse of process, prosecutorial misconduct, false reporting, contempt, those types of things. The reality is those charges are very rarely brought and even more rarely upheld by the courts.
Andy Lee (Glendale, CA)
Do you believe that Kobe Bryant will have a perfectly fair trial?
John Pineau (5:46 PM)
Yeah, I think Kobe Bryant may be able to get a fair trial in Eagle County and if he can't, the judge will put it in a county where he can.
With evidence rules as they are, would evidence of the victim's sexual history be allowed?
John Pineau (5:48 PM)
Highly unlikely, EXTREMELY unlikely. In the old days, long before my time, it's been reported that victims in rape trials were castigated and tortured on the stand with questions regarding their past sexual history. The modern and better approach is past sexual history by statute is unadmissable. Only in rare exceptions can it be presented at trial. For example, if sexual conduct with another person other than the defendant explains the presence of semen.
Rick San Diego
Isn't it unusual for today's court appearance to be televised? Can't that taint a possible jury pool?
John Pineau (5:50 PM)
Good question. Yes, it's very unusual to have any criminal court proceedings televised. Only in cases like these do we see TVs in the courtroom. It's one in a million. I don't believe today's appearance will seriously taint anybody because the only thing that will happen is the court will set a date for the preliminary hearing which will take place in the next 30 days.
Whats the buzz among the law circles and water coolers in Colorado - does anyone think he will be convicted of this?
John Pineau (5:52 PM)
Anybody who knows anything about a criminal trial wouldn't be stupid enough to seriously commit to what the verdict is going to be without being deep on the inside and being present at every minute of the trial. Almost anything can happen and even if you are present at the trial, a jury of 12 strangers often surprises everyone with their verdict.
Rod B (New Orleans)
Considering that this case is just a hyped up he-said, she-said case, is it typical for these types of cases to go to trial and result in a guilty verdict? No one will ever know what happened in that room, and neither side is going to back down from their position. Thanks!
John Pineau (5:53 PM)
In Colorado, it is very typical for these cases to go to trial. I'm aware of other jurisdictions where a substantial portion of these claims never even result in a charge.
Travis ( Palmghetto )
How can they possible get a jury that has not seen or heard anything about Kobe involving this case?
John Pineau (5:55 PM)
They are unlikely to find jurors who know nothing about the case. But that's not the crucial question in qualifying a juror. If the juror can state that despite their exposure to the press they can still be impartial, they still qualify for jury service.
Is the alleged victim ever going to be openly know to the public during or even after the trial?
John Pineau (5:56 PM)
Yes. Trials are public forums. Under the Consitution they are open to the public and we have not reached the day where you can accuse someone, send them to jail for life and remain anonymous.
Why aren't you defending Kobe??
John Pineau (5:57 PM)
He's in the hands of arguably the best lawyers in the state and I'm not just kissing their ass. A really strong team is representing Mr. Bryant.
Mike (Collinsville, IL)
How can the bellman who was the first to know about the incident be characterized as a "witness"? Also, how do you think his testimony will affect both sides?
John Pineau (6:01 PM)
First off, anyone can be a witness. For example, it may be that someone who saw the accusor three weeks after the incident, heard her make a statement that underminded her accusations. They could be called as a witness. Often, witnesses that are the first to see the victim are called in to corroborate or disprove the victim's state of mind or fear or lack of fear. Any kind of behavior that is consistent or inconsistent with having just been raped. Thanks for all the questions .. it's been fun. The hearing is starting now. Take care everyone!