<
>

Prosecutors to move forward with criminal case

DENVER -- The woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape filed a civil lawsuit against the NBA star in federal court Tuesday, a move legal experts said could cripple the criminal case less than three weeks before the trial begins.

Attorneys for the 20-year-old woman asked for a jury trial and compensatory damages of at least $75,000, with punitive damages to be determined later.

Attorneys John Clune and Lin Wood said their client was owed money for pain, "public scorn, hatred and ridicule" she has suffered as a result of the alleged attack last summer. They also
accused Bryant of similar misconduct involving women, but provided no details.

The filing came less than a week after the attorneys said they
were considering a civil suit after a series of mistakes they say
have undermined their client's chance to have her accusation heard
fairly.

To win a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove only that it is
more likely than not harm was caused by the defendant. Prosecutors
in a criminal case have to convince jurors beyond a reasonable
doubt a defendant committed a crime, a much higher standard of
proof.

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said the lawsuit
changes nothing for prosecutors.

"We are still moving forward," she said, declining comment on
whether the civil case would complicate the trial.

Wood also declined comment, citing District Judge Terry
Ruckriegle's sweeping gag order in the case, but said "both cases
at present are moving forward." Bryant's attorneys did not return
a message.

Bryant 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He
has said he had consensual sex with the woman, then 19, at the
Vail-area resort where she worked last summer. The Los Angeles
Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life
on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000 if convicted. Jury
selection begins Aug. 27.

Legal experts said the civil lawsuit would not only hurt
prosecutors, but could mean the accuser intends to end her
participation in the criminal case.

"The timing is strange -- before the trial rather than after --
and I still think there could be a global settlement and perhaps
the filing is one step in the global settlement," said Larry
Pozner, former president of the National Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers.

Bryant's attorneys have already argued the woman falsely accused
Bryant to gain the attention of a former boyfriend, and that she
was given nearly $20,000 from a victims' compensation fund. Experts
say the civil case is more fodder for the argument that the woman
has a financial motive to pursue the case.

"Now all of a sudden it looks like this whole thing was for
money. If it's otherwise, then why would she file a civil case?"
said Dan Recht, former president of the Colorado Criminal Bar
Association. "In my mind, they would never file a civil case
without having a strategy of getting the criminal case dismissed."

He also said the lawsuit could hurt the chances of winning a
conviction.

"A jury in a criminal case will know this is not the end of the
road," Recht said.

The woman, however, might be angry enough to want to go ahead in
both courts, said Norm Early a former Denver prosecutor.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Denver because the
alleged crime happened in Colorado and the two parties live in
different states. Like the criminal case, it accuses Bryant of
attacking the woman in his room at the Cordillera resort, causing
her emotional and physical problems that linger to this day.

"The conduct of defendant Bryant demonstrates willful, reckless
and intentional criminal conduct and that entire want of care that
raises a conscious indifference to consequences," the attorneys
wrote.

The attorneys accused Bryant of flirting with the woman, a front
desk employee, during a tour of the resort. After the two ended up
in his room, they began to kiss. Investigators have said the
encounter turned violent after flirting by both Bryant and his
accuser, and that she told Bryant "no" at least twice.

In the lawsuit, the attorneys said at some point during the
kissing "Bryant's voice became deeper and his acts became
rougher" as he began to grope the woman. She asked him to stop,
but Bryant allegedly blocked her exit, grabbed her and forced her
over a chair to rape her.

Bryant's hands were around the woman's neck, the attorneys said
-- "a perceived threat of potential strangulation if she resisted
his advances." They also accused Bryant of "attempting to commit
similar acts of violent sexual assault on females he has just
met," but they did not elaborate.

The woman's attorneys last week went on national TV to complain
about mistakes made by court staff. The accuser's name has been
included in filings mistakenly posted on a state court Web site and
a court reporter accidentally e-mailed transcripts of a closed-door
hearing on the woman's sexual activities to seven news
organizations, which published the details after winning a First
Amendment court fight with the judge.

"This case unfortunately has been the poster child for the very
worst that we can treat a woman and a victim of sexual assault,"
said Cynthia Stone, spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition Against
Sexual Assault. "She has been the one who has been put on trial in
the court of public opinion."