Archive for Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Attorneys for Bryant’s accuser on offensive

September 8, 2004

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— Attorneys for the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape went on a public-relations offensive Tuesday, appearing on network television to bolster her public image and dispel speculation that a settlement is in the works in her civil lawsuit against the NBA All-Star.

"We fully expect that case to be aggressively litigated," attorney John Clune said on the CBS "Early Show."

The criminal case against Bryant was dropped last week, but the civil suit seeking an unspecified dollar amount is pending in Denver federal court. In separate TV appearances, Clune and attorney Lin Wood said the civil case was a strong one.

Experts said Clune and Wood were seeking to pressure Bryant, possibly by suggesting that damaging or embarrassing information about him might come out if the lawsuit went to trial.

"It's all an effort to manipulate public opinion with a long-term goal of procuring from Bryant a greater monetary settlement," Denver attorney Scott Robinson said. "I'd be doing the same thing."

In their TV appearances, Clune and Wood said there had been no talks about settling the civil case since the felony sexual-assault charge was dropped.

On NBC's "Today Show," Wood stressed that the standard of proof in civil court was a "preponderance of evidence," rather than the tougher standard in criminal trials, where prosecutors must convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Wood and Clune said their client was a normal woman caught up in abnormal circumstances.

"She made some mistakes," Wood said. "This young girl was a true victim, and (the public) will feel very sorry for what she had to go through and what her family went through over the last year and will have to put up (with) for the rest of her life. It's a real tragedy."

The attorneys did not return calls from the Associated Press.

It was at least the second time they went on national TV. Shortly before the lawsuit was filed Aug. 10, Clune and Wood criticized the court for mistakes, including the release of her name and of closed-court testimony by a defense DNA expert.

Bryant has not yet formally responded to the lawsuit. His criminal-defense attorneys did not return a call, and it was unclear who will represent him in the civil case.

In the lawsuit, the 20-year-old woman claims that after she flirted with Bryant and kissed him in his room at the Vail-area resort where she worked last summer, he became violent and raped her.

She is seeking damages for pain and emotional distress she says she has suffered since her accusation became public 14 months ago.

The civil suit is similar to the criminal case, which prosecutors dropped last week as the final phase of jury selection was set to begin in Eagle County district court.

Prosecutors said they dropped the charge at the woman's request because she no longer was willing to testify. Repeated court mistakes made her doubt the criminal justice system could protect her, Clune said.

As part of the dismissal, Bryant released an apology in which he said he believed they had consensual sex but could understand why she believed it was rape. The statement said the woman agreed not to use his apology against him in civil court.

Larry Pozner, a Denver attorney and former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said Clune and Wood were unlikely to be able to put additional pressure on Bryant in the civil case.

"(The plaintiff has) the same leverage as in every other civil case: Is it worth your time, money and brain damage to continue in the civil case?" Pozner said. "For a guy like Kobe Bryant, who has enough money and other things to occupy his time, there is some number he pays just to make it go away, just to have peace of mind."

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