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Interview With Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban; Kobe Bryant Set to Appear in Court Tomorrow

Aired August 5, 2003 - 20:10   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And we turn now to the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case. "Notoriety sells." Those are the words of Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. He says, like it or not, the rape case will have a positive effect on the sport and on the team's season opener.

MARK CUBAN, OWNER, DALLAS MAVERICKS: People become intrigued. Nonfans want to know what's going on. Opening game with Kobe and Payton and Karl Malone and Shaq, if they don't put it on network television, they're crazy, because it's going to be our best-rated show of the year. So it's unfortunate the way it all turned out from a people perspective, but, from a business perspective, people are going to be intrigued.


ZAHN: And earlier tonight, I got the opportunity to talk with the Mavericks' owner about those comments.


ZAHN: And Mark Cuban joins us now.

Always good to see you. Welcome.

CUBAN: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: Well, you've gotten a lot of attention on television and in the nation's newspapers over the last 24 hours. And we've heard a little bit of what you said yesterday. But perhaps what is causing the greatest controversy is this comment about what impact this might have on the NBA. Let's listen to what you said yesterday together now.


CUBAN: I hate to say this. From a business perspective, it's great for the NBA.


ZAHN: So, Mark, how do you see the NBA profiting from this? CUBAN: Well, notoriety sells. That's the unfortunate reality.

The more news media and other media builds up any individual, the more -- I don't want to say appealing -- but the more awareness there is of that individual, the more curiosity about that individual that develops and people go pay to go see that person. Mike Tyson is the perfect example. He's the No. 1 attraction or pay-per-view boxing. And he's the ultimate train wreck.

Reality TV is another example. It's just -- I don't know if it's a sad state of affairs, but it's the reality in America today. Train wreck TV sells.

ZAHN: Do you personally think it's a good thing?

CUBAN: Well, my comment was that it's going to be great for the business of the NBA. And I don't think that's necessarily a position we like to be in. I don't think necessarily that it's something we'd ever want to see happen in the first place or happen ever again.

But if you just look at it purely objectively and say, will there be incremental revenue as a result of this unfortunate tragedy, the honest answer is yes. And this was a part of an honest conversation that I was having with somebody when asked about what would be the absolute impact in terms of dollars, particularly short-term dollars, on the NBA.

ZAHN: Do you think you will personally gain from it, because the season open is on, what, October 28 between the Mavericks and Lakers?

CUBAN: No, not really at all.

If the NBA gains, in some respects, then I gain as well as a shareholder of the NBA. But the way the economics are set up, I don't get any personal gain from that opening game against the Lakers at all. It's played in L.A. It's not on Mavericks television. It's on national television. So there's no direct profit to me at all.

ZAHN: This probably comes as no great surprise to you, but NBA commissioner David Stern says you've got this all wrong. And we're going to share with the audience a little bit of what he had to say.

He said -- quote -- "Any suggestion that there will be some economic or promotional benefit to the NBA arising from the charge pending against Kobe Bryant is both misinformed and unseemly. That idea does not reflect the views of the NBA, NBA owners generally, or others associated with our sport."

CUBAN: I don't think that's all that far off from what I was saying.

I mean, I think he's really referring to anybody that the NBA is not going to try to be opportunistic about this. And I'm not suggesting that we were. I think that would be the exact wrong thing to do. But, again, there's a reason why Mike Tyson is the No. 1 attraction in boxing. There's a reason why the Monica Lewinskys get the top rating. There's a reason why CNN has a live reporter at the courthouse for Kobe Bryant.

And the net result of all those, the fact that every news media outlet has got somebody covering this case builds awareness. And, really, people are going to want -- again, I'm not saying this is a good thing. If anything, it's a sad reflection on who we are as a country and our media consumption habits. But the reality is, because of all of this notoriety, people are going to want to see what's going on with Kobe, how is he going to respond in his first competitive game, how are people going to respond to him. And those are just the facts.

I don't see how anybody can deny that. And the more that it's talked about, the more self-fulfilling that it becomes.

ZAHN: So, Mark, let me ask you this. If it ends up being that Kobe Bryant is convicted of sexual assault, does this equation change?

CUBAN: It's hard to say.

I hope to God that it all works out for the best for both parties. But I'm not one to predict. I don't know exactly what the impact will be. It's not something we're going to know an answer to for a long time. It will really depend on the particulars as they play out. I just hope that's a question we don't have to answer.

ZAHN: And when you say you hope that it works out best for both parties, what do you mean by that?

CUBAN: I wasn't there.

What I'm trying to do is not pass judgment one way or the other. I'm trying to not come to any conclusions on what the impact or what -- exactly what happened, because I don't know. And to try to guess would be stupid. And so you just hope for the best for both parties. And that's the best way I can put it.

ZAHN: Based, Mark, on what you're saying about the business of the NBA and what draws people to the sport, how much of the interest of the sport has anything to do with throwing a ball through a hoop here?

CUBAN: A lot.

It's like any other media outlet. It's like any other form of entertainment. There's varied demographics who come to that form of entertainment for various reasons. We don't all go to see a movie for the same reason. Not everybody goes to an NBA game or a football game or a baseball game for the same reason.

The fans of the sport will come to see the game. There are people who bring their kids to the game. And then there will be fans that come just -- there are fans that come just to see the dancers, male dancers and female dancers. And there will be fans who come to see -- look at Allen Iverson. Two years ago, he was about as notorious as you can get. The same type of discussions were being had, for different reasons, obviously. And his jersey turned into the No. 1 -- one of the top three selling jerseys in the NBA.

Again, I'm not reflecting on whether that is good or bad. Those are just the stated facts. And people's curiosity will build over Kobe and potentially even over the NBA with this. And then that could result in incremental business. And I think it will.

ZAHN: Do you think kids in America should be looking up to Kobe Bryant right now?

CUBAN: It's too early to tell. You just don't know.

My honest -- my feeling about role models is that sports figures should not be role models. Parents should be role models. Teachers should not be role models, because the typical kid is not going to meet Dirk Nowitzki. The typical kid is not going to meet Kobe Bryant. The only exposure that they have to them is the picture that the media paints. And you never know the accuracy of that.

What you do know the accuracy of is the love of your family and your teachers and your coaches and the people you come in contact with. And to try to put the role of role model, if you will, on athletes is not fair to our kids and not fair to parents. It puts them in a bad position as well.

ZAHN: Ah, but, Mark, you've come to appreciate the accuracy of what we do here on CNN, haven't you?

CUBAN: Well, with you, Paula, absolutely. And that's why I'm here to clear things up. Just be glad you don't have to deal with the sports media all the time.

ZAHN: Yes, we have enough of our own in the news world.

Thank you very much. Always good to see you, Mark. Thanks for dropping by.

CUBAN: Thanks, Paula. Same here.


ZAHN: And we're going to stay with the story now.

ESPN's Shelley Smith reported yesterday that a possible witness may have emerged in this investigation. A bellman, according to her, reportedly saw Bryant's 19-year-old accuser shortly after she left the hotel room in Eagle, Colorado, where the alleged rape took place.

Shelley Smith joins me now from Eagle with the very latest.

Shelley, thanks so much for joining us this evening.

SHELLEY SMITH, ESPN: Thanks for having me, Paula.

ZAHN: Well, first of all, let's talk a little bit about the story you broke and who you spoke with. It is a story that is being widely disputed tonight. Do you want to defend your reporting this evening?

SMITH: It's all out there. I stand by, we stand by what we've reported. And we're solid with it. We wouldn't have gone with it if we weren't thinking that way.

I've had the information for some time, waited to report it, based on protecting some of the sources that I had spoken with. And we stand by it.

ZAHN: And for people who aren't familiar with the specifics of what you reported, we just sort of glossed over the details in your introduction, basically saying that you confirmed from the bellman himself that he had seen the accuser leaving the hotel and she had said some things to him. What did you report?

SMITH: We reported that we had learned that the bellman, Bobby Pietrack, told police -- hang on just a second -- told police that he saw the alleged victim shortly after she came out of her room the night of the alleged attack, and that she was disheveled, visibly upset, and had red marks around her neck and her face.

We also reported that sources close to the investigation say he is now believed to be the first link in a chain of what is called immediate consent, meaning the first person she cried out to -- excuse me, not immediate consent -- immediate outcry -- the first person she cried out to after the alleged incident took place, that he would be the first link in that chain and that the photos that were taken of her marks on her face and her neck are considered part of the prosecution's evidence.

ZAHN: So why do you think so many different news organizations are trying to shoot down this report tonight?

SMITH: I don't know.

ZAHN: You don't have any idea at all?

SMITH: I don't know. I can't tell you why. I don't know. I have no idea why somebody would want to shoot this down.

ZAHN: And you basically said you have multiple sources now and you have confirmed this not once, but a number of times.


SMITH: ABC News also confirmed it as well.


Let's move on to the issue of the accuser, reports that she has left town tonight. Is that true?

SMITH: Don't know that. I don't have any information on that. And I'd rather be beaten than be wrong. That's how seriously we are taking this.

ZAHN: Well, that is the right attitude to have. That's for sure.

This is a community that is well known to you. Your parents spend all their time basically in Eagle, Colorado, now. Just a final thought on what the town is prepared for about this time tomorrow night.

SMITH: Well, yes, it's taken on a very big feel, with the impending arrival of Kobe Bryant tomorrow afternoon. The media tents have been constructed. And we're all standing on platforms. And it's very O.J.-esque, although not nearly as serious as that was. But it's really taken on a big feel.

This town is only 3,000 people. It was an old cowboy town. They are not used to big things like this. The security at the courthouse is nonexistent. There are no metal detectors, or there weren't until tomorrow. Anybody who wanted to could walk in there. It was a very friendly community. And they are so not quite prepared for the onslaught. They haven't been. It's been a touch kind of situation between the media and the community.

But things are being worked out. And as they go on, I think things will get better and better. But it is definitely taking on a big feel. We've known from the start this is very serious. And with his arrival tomorrow, it becomes even more real to a lot of us.

ZAHN: And you have, what, seat No. 2 in the courtroom tomorrow?

SMITH: I do. I have seat No. 2 in the front row. There's only 22 of us will be allowed into the courtroom. The rest will be watching in an overflow tent. There are a lot of media here. And that courtroom is very small. And it's very strange to think about such a large event being tried on such a small arena.

ZAHN: Well, we know you've got a lot of work to do yet tonight. Shelley Smith, thanks for spending a little time with us this evening. Appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: We're not finished with the Kobe Bryant case. Coming up: celebrities and their lifestyles. We're going to talk with a self- proclaimed groupie who has been with the likes of Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page. She's going to explain why folks like to hang out with these athletic stars and rock stars. We're also going to take a look at the kind of effect the lifestyle has at home. We're going to talk with the ex-wife of a former NBA star.


ZAHN: Kobe Bryant is, of course, scheduled to appear in court tomorrow in Eagle, Colorado, where the charges against him in the sexual assault case will be read. What is this hearing about?

Well, our legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is on the ground there. We are also joined from our studio in Los Angeles by jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius. Good to have both of you with us tonight. JO-ELLAN DIMITRIUS, JURY CONSULTANT: Thanks, Paula.


ZAHN: I know it's rude to start with the guy first, but, Jeffrey, I'm going to start with you this evening.

What is the strategy behind making Kobe Bryant show up for this hearing tomorrow, when it's pretty standard practice to not make defendants show up?

TOOBIN: Well, I'm not sure that it's a strategy, so much as just a reminder to everyone that Kobe Bryant is a defendant, like any other defendant. And the rules say that you should be here. Yes, it can be waived. But you've got to be here. You're nothing special. You're just a defendant like anyone else, so you've got to come and be a participate, like a less celebrated defendant.

ZAHN: What's going to happen in the 10 minutes we're going to see on TV?

TOOBIN: Well, actually, I think something very interesting, Paula.

One -- the first part, the reading of the charges, will not be terribly significant. But we're going to know something very important about the defense strategy tomorrow. They could either say, we are ready to go. We want a preliminary hearing within 30 days, as the law allows. Or we could see them start to try to delay it. It could go as long as 60 days, perhaps 75 days, before a preliminary hearing.

It's an important decision for a defense team whether you want a fast trial or you want to put it off. And I think we'll have a very clear sense from the defense tomorrow which way they intend to go.

ZAHN: Have you been given any information that would give us any clues this evening as to which way they might go?

TOOBIN: In the spirit of Shelley Smith, rather being -- rather being late than wrong, the answer to that is, no, I don't know. I don't know which way they're going to do. The defense team, despite my best efforts, has been very closed-mouthed about that.

ZAHN: Yes, well, you're a very aggressive prosecutor, so if you don't have the information, I don't think anybody does out there. And we do value your accuracy on the job.


TOOBIN: I don't have it.

ZAHN: Let's bring Jo-Ellan into the conversation here.

Let's talk a little bit about the population in Eagle, Colorado, 0.2 percent African-American. What do you expect to happen in the selection of a jury pool here?

DIMITRIUS: Well, it's a fascinating area, because being in a resort area, you typically have people that are on the opposite ends of the socioeconomic scale.

So you have people on one side that are very well off. And on the other side are a lot of the workers that work in that and perhaps aren't as well off. We obviously know that the primary demographic of that area is Caucasian, with a few Hispanics and only 2 percent African-American.

What will be interesting in terms of jury selection will be, because it is such a closed community, will people that are prospective jurors have intimate knowledge of the victim and her family? And if so, how is that going to impact the way that they see this case? Typically, people like a consultant will work with the defense team in evaluating just that type of scenario.

And based on what I know of that area, because I used to actually be the jury supervisor in Pitkin County, which is right next door, I suspect that that may be a pretty good venue for the defense, because, in fact, the people do know the family and do know the victim. And it might play out to their benefit to have it there. So, in terms of looking down the road to a possible change of venue, that's one of the things that the defense team would be doing, is evaluating if, in fact, they have a better shot there or perhaps in one of the contiguous counties to that.

ZAHN: And, Jeffrey, I wanted to pick up on a point you made earlier about might be revealed about the defense strategy through how they proceed tomorrow. What might we learn about the prosecution strategy? So far, the district attorney has obviously not shared much with the public about any evidence he might have.

TOOBIN: Well, I think the only surprising thing we could hear from the district attorney tomorrow is any sense of accommodation towards delay, because the usual prosecution strategy -- and, frankly, the way I was taught you're supposed to be a prosecutor -- is, the government is always ready. If we file charges, we're ready to go to trial tomorrow.

And that is usually the appropriate prosecution response. And if there is any hesitation there, if there is any sense that, no, we want to delay, we are not ready, we are not through with our investigation yet, that would be the surprise tomorrow. And that would be, I think, frankly, a sign of weakness from the prosecution.

ZAHN: Jeffrey, what are the chances that Kobe Bryant could write one big fat check here and this whole thing goes away?

TOOBIN: Well, it is legally possible


Bryant Set to Appear in Court Tomorrow>

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