Swiss man held for allegedly offering to kill Kobe Bryant accuser for $3 million

Friday, September 19th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) _ A Swiss bodybuilder who claims ties to organized crime was arrested for investigation of offering to murder the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant sex assault case.

Patrick Graber, 31, agreed to carry out the killing for $3 million, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. He made the offer to Bryant's security director and met several times with undercover detectives before being arrested during a sting Thursday.

Graber, of the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo, was identified by sheriff's officials as a well-built bodybuilding coach at a local gym. A Swiss national with an expired visa, Graber has been in the United States about two years, sheriff's Lt. Jim Taylor said.

Just before Thursday's arrest, Graber attempted to reach for a bag full of movie studio prop money in a car, Taylor said, after which he was surrounded by more than 30 officers.

Arraignment was set for Sept. 22.

The investigation started Sept. 8, after Bryant's security personnel said they had received a letter stating that the writer could solve Bryant's problems, the Sheriff's Department said.

A security official met with Graber and contacted investigators. A meeting was arranged with Graber and undercover sheriff's detectives.

The detectives concluded that Graber was ``a credible threat,'' Taylor said, and contacted the Eagle County, Colo., district attorney's office and the accuser's family.

``He had given us information specifically about the family that led us to believe he knew them quite well,'' Taylor said. ``What he said about the victim and her family was true.''

Sheriff's undercover investigators had several more meetings with Graber in which a money exchange was arranged, officials said. Authorities said others may be involved in the alleged plot, but no further arrests have been made.

Taylor said Graber planned to hire someone to commit the crime and would provide evidence showing they had accomplished their goal. Graber said he could have acted quickly, possibly within a week, Taylor said.

``He said he could make her not come to court, he could make her disappear, he could make her have a drug overdose,'' Taylor said. ``He was specific in that manner.''

Graber allegedly told authorities he was involved in organized crime, possibly the Russian mafia. He used the name ``Yuri'' in his dealings with undercover detectives, Taylor said. He said detectives do not have any evidence that Graber had those ties, but are investigating.

A search warrant was served where Graber lived and firearms were found, Taylor said.

Bryant, 25, is charged with raping a 19-year-old employee of the ritzy Lodge & Spa at Cordillera on June 30. He has said the two had consensual sex.

A defense attorney for Bryant, Hal Haddon, told KUSA-TV in Denver on Thursday that Bryant is ``scared for his family'' in light of the alleged murder scheme and ``outraged that any of these kinds of threats and these kinds of offers are made.'' He added that Bryant is ``very concerned that he can't get a fair trial in this atmosphere.''

The alleged murder-for-hire scheme is not the first threat to Kobe Bryant's accuser. Police records show that her father has called police at least twice in recent weeks to report suspicious incidents.

Earlier this month, a University of Iowa student was arrested for leaving a threatening message on the woman's answering machine in July.