Bryant’s accuser drops rape charge; Civil case still looms
The Colorado judge in the criminal case against three-time NBAchampion, Kobe Bryant, dismissed the felony sexual assault chargeWednesday afternoon after prosecutors for Bryant’s accuser said sheno longer wanted to participate in the trial.
Judge Terry Ruckriegle granted the dismissalafter a day of meetings with attorneys from both sides. Theruling does not permit the accuser to re-file criminal chargesagainst the Los Angeles Laker, but the civil case is expected tocontinue.
The dismissal came as the jury selections wereexpected to be made final by Friday and the long-awaited,high-profile trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday. DistrictAttorney Mark Hulbert revealed that the 20-year-old woman whobrought charges against Bryant more than a year ago did not want totestify at a criminal trial.
“This decision is not based upon a lackof belief in the victim — she is an extremely credible and anextremely brave young woman,” Hurlbert said to ESPN reportersoutside the courthouse. “Ultimately, we respect herdecision 100 percent.”
Bryant, 26, was charged with raping a woman,who worked at a mountain resort near Vail, Colo., where he had beena guest last June. He pleaded not guilty saying the sex wasconsensual.
The last-minute hearing that preceded thedismissal was held without Bryant and his accuser present. During the hearing, Bryant’s attorney, Pamela Mackey read astatement from her client apologizing for his actions.
“I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and forthe consequences she has suffered in the past year,” Mackeyread Bryant’s statement to the court. “Although I trulybelieve this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize nowthat she did not and does not view this incident the same way Idid. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to herattorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand howshe feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that thestatements of the alleged victim that led to the dismissalcontradict statements made earlier on Wednesday to Lin Wood, herpersonal attorney. She expressed to prosecutors that no moreleaks could be made. Last Friday, a Denver TV stationreceived an un-redacted copy of the jury questionnaire, whichincluded the accuser’s name. Such leaks have plagued the caseand apparently, that contributed to the criminal case’s breakingpoint.
In addition, this week, defense attorneysclaimed that the prosecutors withheld the expert opinion of medicalexaminer, Michael Baden. Defense attorney, Hal Haddon saidBaden told prosecutors the microscopic lacerations between theaccuser’s vagina and anus could have come from consensualsex. However, prosecutors dropped Baden as an expert in Julyand his name did not appear on the witness list given to potentialjurors this week.
Though Bryant seems to join the ranks of Blackmale athletes like O. J. Simpson who have beaten criminal charges,legal experts say that the civil suit, in which the accuser seeks”unspecified damages,” could last for more than ayear.