It is the big celebrity case that wasn't. When Kobe Bryant was indicted for sexual assault, he joined celebrities Robert Blake and Martha Stewart as the accused of national scrutiny. Blake's trial is still on hold. To the surprise of many, Stewart was convicted and has been sentenced to months in prison. Criminal charges against Bryant were dismissed, with prejudice, last week.
I wondered if the prosecution was desperate when it made a last ditch effort to undermine the defense in an earlier entry. Asking that all DNA evidence be excluded, apparently to hide allegations the accuser had intercourse with another man within a few hours of the encounter with Bryant, seemed to signal defeat. My skepticism proved accurate. The prosecution dropped the charges without even waiting for a ruling on its motion.
The New York Times reports citizens of the small town in Colorado where the victim lived are glad to have the case go away. They look forward to returning to normalcy and regret the expense, a reported $400,000, the episode cost the county.
Coverage by KABC-TV in Los Angeles focuses on Bryant's 'apology.'
In the end, the rape case against Kobe Bryant was dropped because the young woman accusing him did not want to testify at trial. Without her, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said they could not proceed.
. . .In a statement, Bryant, while not admitting blame, apologized to the woman.
"I want to apologize for my behavior that night," he wrote, "and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year."
Should Bryant have apologized? From a legal perspective, the answer is probably no. Since a civil suit alleging he did the woman harm is still pending, an apology could be used as evidence against him. However, the dismissal of the criminal case makes it less likely the civil case will go forward. Even if it does, a jury will be harder to convince that Bryant harmed his accuser and that she deserves damagaes as a result. The best evidence she could have would be a conviction of Bryant in a a criminal trial. It is possible the parties will reach a settlement of the civil suit. But, the accuser will have fewer chips to bargain with as a result of the dismissal of the criminal case.
Some other sources see the gamesmanship of the Bryant prosecution as proof a prosecutor succumbed to the allure of convicting a public figure at the expense of common sense. The GJ Sentinel, in Colorado, takes the person who made the decision to indict Bryant to task.
But one thing has been reasonably clear from the get-go: The prosecution never had a strong case. It was riddled with inconsistencies and evidence that challenged the accuser’s story. It was highly unlikely that 35-year-old District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and his equally youthful staff could have convinced a jury of Bryant’s guilt, even if the young woman had not decided at the last minute that she didn’t want to proceed with the case.