Feminist anger as Bryant rape case is dropped

Click to follow
The Independent US

The dismissal of rape charges against the basketball superstar Kobe Bryant caused ripples of disquiet yesterday among feminist activists and legal experts, who said the young woman at the centre of the case was subjected to death threats, court errors and gross invasions of her privacy before deciding the prosecution was too much for her to bear.

The dismissal of rape charges against the basketball superstar Kobe Bryant caused ripples of disquiet yesterday among feminist activists and legal experts, who said the young woman at the centre of the case was subjected to death threats, court errors and gross invasions of her privacy before deciding the prosecution was too much for her to bear.

A Colorado judge threw out the case at the prosecution's request on Wednesday night, following a day of intricate legal negotiations that resulted in a formal apology from Mr Bryant for his behaviour and an undertaking from the prosecution that the criminal case against him could never be revived. Jury selection began last Friday, and the trial proper had been due to start early next week.

The case was in deep trouble anyway - especially because of revelations about the woman's sexual activities in the hours immediately following the alleged attack and before she went for a medical examination. But the deciding factor, according to both sides, was the young woman's decision that she could no longer stand the repeated leaks revealing her identity, her medical records and her sexual habits - all violations of the "rape shield" provision in Colorado law.

"The difficulties that this case has imposed on this woman the past year are unimaginable," her lawyer, John Clune, told reporters. Several commentators lamented the perils of conducting a criminal prosecution with a celebrity defendant, saying everyone ended up a loser while the truth remained elusive.

The case revolved around a sexual encounter between Mr Bryant and a receptionist at a mountain resort hotel in June last year. The Los Angeles Lakers star - arguably the best player in professional basketball - insisted the encounter was consensual, but the woman said he forced himself on her.

The death knell for the prosecution was probably sounded two months ago, when Judge Terry Ruckriegle decided to admit evidence about the woman's sexual activity in the period immediately surrounding the alleged attack. A DNA test indicated sexual contact with a man other than Mr Bryant.

The court in Eagle, Colorado, repeatedly violated its duty to respect the woman's anonymity - posting her name on its website and distributing her medical records more widely than it should have. Judge Ruckriegle apologised for the indiscretions, saying they were due to staff shortages.

The woman has not closed the door on a civil suit against Mr Bryant. In his apology, he acknowledged that, despite his belief at the time, the woman did not regard the encounter as consensual. "Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure," he said.

Comments