Prosecution drops Bryant rape case
Deal means charges won't be filed again
September 2, 2004
BY JON SARCHE
EAGLE, Colo. -- The Kobe Bryant case collapsed Wednesday as prosecutors said they had no choice but to drop the sexual assault charge against the NBA star because the alleged victim did not want to testify.
Bryant, whose trial had been days from opening arguments, responded with an apology to the woman who had accused him.
"Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did," Bryant said. "I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."
With the parents of the 20-year-old accuser looking on, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle threw out the case under a deal that means no charges will be refiled.
"The people have filed a motion to dismiss this case based on the fact the sole victim at this time is unable to go forward," District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told the judge.
Bryant still faces a federal civil lawsuit filed by the accuser that seeks unspecified damages.
The woman's attorney, John Clune, said his client has been through an extremely difficult time over the past 14 months and was disturbed by a series of courthouse mistakes that included the release of her name and medical history.
"It is in her sincere belief that when this case ends she does not want to be brought back into the criminal process," Clune told the judge. "The difficulties that this case has imposed on this woman the past year are unimaginable."
Ruckriegle admitted mistakes had been made and took full responsibility.
The prosecution dropped the case as jury selection was beginning to wrap up. Opening statements had been expected next Tuesday.
L. Lin Wood, an attorney handling the accuser's federal civil lawsuit against Bryant, said the case was intact Wednesday.
Bryant has said he had consensual sex with a then-19-year-old employee of a Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. If Bryant had been convicted of rape, he would have faced four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000.
Events leading to the dismissal began this week when defense attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the assault charge, saying prosecutors had refused to turn over details that could suggest Bryant is innocent. Court rules require prosecutors and defense attorneys to exchange evidence and witness opinions before trial.
In a motion made public Wednesday, defense attorneys said a forensics expert whom prosecutors had planned to call as a witness had information that "undermined the accuser's allegations and the prosecution's case, and corroborated Mr. Bryant's defense on a central issue -- the cause and significance of the accuser's alleged injuries."
The filing said those opinions were not disclosed to the defense until they contacted the expert Friday, despite repeated requests to prosecutors for the information. Prosecutors have said they have turned over all the information that was required.
"A person's life and liberty are at stake," the defense attorneys wrote. "The game of hide-the-ball, find-it-if-you-can discovery is intolerable. This court must vindicate Mr. Bryant's constitutional rights and impose meaningful sanctions against the prosecution."
The motion does not identify the expert, but prosecutors this spring had said they planned to call former New York City medical examiner Michael Baden to testify about the woman's injuries.