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CLOSING ARGUMENTS IN THE KOBE BRYANT CASE THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN: WHAT'S LEFT AND WHAT'S NEXT?


All of a sudden, it's over. There will be no trial. There will be no testimony. There will be no verdict.

It isn't as if Wednesday's developments were unexpected. For months, it appeared the prosecution's argument was weakening. But the decision to drop the charges, and the abrupt dismissal of the case just as jury selection was beginning, caught a lot of people off-guard, nonetheless.

So where are we with Kobe Bryant right now? We have the allegations. We have the arrest. We have last summer's tearful televised confession to his adultery. We have Wednesday's apology, released as a statement rather than read in public. And we have the civil case, which apparently will proceed.

The members of the Writers' Bloc aren't lawyers, so we'll stay away from the legal ramifications. But, like every other sports fan in America who has been caught up in the case for the last 13 months or so, we wonder what the last 13 months have done to Kobe's legacy and life, and what the future holds for the public's perception of him:

The punishment of losses | From Bomani Jones
Just like that, Kobe Bryant is a free man.

Maybe that trivializes what must have been an agonizing year for Kobe, but the dismissal of charges seems anticlimactic now. The state's case was thin, and the decision to walk away from the courthouse was more about avoiding embarrassment than sparing expense. His guilt has been of little concern since his lawyers rolled up their sleeves.

If he did what he was charged with, trading a year and change of anguish for exoneration is a bargain. If he did not, then the last year has been stolen from him. Game-winning jumpers should be of little solace to the falsely-accused.

But did this case really change the Kobe Bryant that we know (or knew)?

Maybe, but only because we now know something about him.

All that has changed is his image, a figment of collective imagination. "He" has evolved from being a golden caterpillar to a tainted, selfish butterfly. In between, we entertained the possibility that he could be a rapist.

The world seemed amazed Bryant could be charged with a crime -- let alone one that heinous -- and many were stunned that such a fine young man would cheat on his wife. At the same time, there was no reason either occurrence should have been too shocking. From what we've seen and read in the media, there was no reason to assume anything about Bryant. We knew as much about him as he knew about us.

And we still know very little. There will be no trial to make him into Mike Tyson or O.J. Simpson.

There's just an angry, big fella in Miami who sees him as Yoko Ono, and a Plastic Band in L.A. he helped create.

And for that crime, he will be punished with losses.

Case closed.

As if it never happened | From Eric Neel
What will be strange now, I think, is how quickly this will go away. I'm not saying Kobe is likely to sign a big, fat endorsement deal anytime soon; but my guess is, Eagle County won't be anywhere on the radar by the time the new season starts. Part of that is because the American memory is short. Part of it is because nobody really wants to talk about or see their sports stars in terms of court rooms and charges. And after Wednesday, a growing part of it is the possibility that the case wasn't very strong to begin with. We're not sure what to think after Wednesday. So my guess is, we won't think about it much at all.

Everyone loses | From Richard Lapchick
There is no way to see anything good coming out of Eagle, Colo., now that the criminal charges have been dropped. So much has been written about the losers in this case.

Kobe's career and his life at home have been forever altered, as there will always be that doubt about whether or not he "did it."

The alleged victim, dragged through a humiliating public laundering, might never be the same person, psychologically. There will always be that doubt about whether or not, in fact, she was raped, or if she lied -- for whatever reasons.

The sleepy resort town of Eagle will always be remembered as the place where Kobe raped, or had sex with, "the accuser." Depends on what you believe happened.

Other victims of sexual assault might be less likely to move forward with the legal process against those who attacked them. They might be the worst off as a result of this case.

However, little has been said about how the charges against Kobe Bryant reinforced the stereotype that too many whites hold about African-American men -- about their interest in white women, and about how they might be more inclined to abuse women. This story was not about the (too many) other athletes who have abused women. This was not Ruben Patterson ... this was Kobe Bryant, the all-American man America had grown to love. If he could do this (even if he didn't), then anyone could.

I went to sleep last night worrying about how the case might reinforce this negative stereotype, based on a handful of athletes who are perpetrators. I worried about it the night Kobe was accused, and I'll worry about it again tonight.

A new set of questions | From Jeff Merron
Despite the circus atmosphere in the O.J. trial, I always thought of it as a murder case. There had clearly been a murder. Simpson was the only clear suspect. Even though Simpson bought his way out of jail with his dream team of lawyers, and even though no other defendant has ever been charged, Nicole and Ron are still dead. We know what happened to them.

In Kobe's case, few people, if any, really have a clue what happened that night.

Bryant, in his statement last night, made it sound like he wasn't even quite sure what happened, and he spoke the greatest truth of all: It's not just "he said, she said," it's also "he experienced, she experienced."

Intimate social interactions -- whether a date that ends in a kiss, hours of passionate lovemaking, or something in between -- can be so ambiguous, so difficult to unpack, mentally. Did she mean it when she said she loved me? Was that kiss a promise, or a goodbye? Why, hours after she said no, was she back at my doorstep, wanting desperately to get back in? That's just an abridged version of my personal catalog, questions that, after a while, got replaced by new ones.

But the new ones were always variations on the same theme: What really happened? I do believe Bryant really didn't know, and still really doesn't. I also think the accusor/victim is probably not so sure herself. End of story? Probably not. But for both Kobe and the young woman, it's time for a new set of questions.

The truth reveals itself | From Alan Grant
Some will call it "celebrity" justice. But I just call it justice. The charges were dropped not because the accuser unraveled, but because the prosecution's case unraveled. So it was disclosed that the accuser text-messaged a boyfriend, telling him about her dalliance with Kobe, presumably with the intent to make the boyfriend jealous. That's damaging in a legal sort of way.

But it seems to me that if she's still willing to testify in a civil suit -- an arena that caters only to the financial side of things -- then I believe her true intentions have been disclosed, and her true identity unmasked. In terms of the belief that the accuser was motivated by money and celebrity, perhaps we should just invoke the latest Terrell Owens litmus test for truth: If it looks like a rat, and smells like a rat ...

The poor, poor pitiful lawyers | From Patrick Hruby
Kobe Bryant pseudo-apologized to the wrong person.

Sure, his non-mea culpa sounded good in a semantically-tortured, Clinton-esque sort of way. But No. 8 should have thrown a "my bad" bone to the real losers in all of this: the army of legal consultants and television talking heads who suddenly have been left in the lurch.

Forget justice. From a bottom-line perspective, the Bryant trial was shaping up to be the biggest legal blockbuster since Scott Peterson, if not O.J. himself. That means ratings, circulation, subsequent books, 10-year retrospectives, exclusive sit-downs with Katie Couric. There's nothing like celebrity crime to make a lot of formerly-obscure law professors rich while turning otherwise-unknown attorneys into stars.

And now what? What does the legal media do, short of packing up the satellite gear and booking the next flight out of Eagle?

Bryant remains a free man. His accuser likely will pocket a large cash settlement. Meanwhile, the Dan Abramses of the world get squat. Consider the options: Flog the Peterson horse. Wait for Martha Stewart's appeal. Hope that someone in the Kennedy family does something stupid. It's a grim picture, any way you look at it.

To put things another way: Pamela Mackey kept her client out of prison. She might even end up with a book deal. But it's doubtful she'll ever work for Court TV, let alone have her own show on CNN. Some victory.

Life as we know it | From D.J. Gallo
Great. Now give me sports back.

In the past 14 months, thanks to whatever Kobe did or did not do in that hotel room in Eagle, Colo. -- and, based on his apology, he did something -- the scores and highlights that regularly fill my television screen have been pushed aside; the game wraps and box scores in the newspaper have been given less importance. Instead, my television has been stuck on some sort of Kobe-centric Court TV mode; my newspaper's sports section reads like the Yale Law Journal (or at least what I think the Yale Law Journal must read like).

But because Kobe Bryant is one of the biggest names in all of sports and he was being accused of a very serious crime, the media had no choice but to cover the story.

But now it's over. If I never hear the word "amicus brief" again, I'll be happy. I want to know about "grass-stained uniforms," not "semen-stained panties."

I want to see people dunking. Throwing 50-yard touchdowns. Scoring goals.

And Kobe, you've got your long-desired street cred now. So keep it in your pants.



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THE KOBE DISMISSAL