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Both sides agree to not discuss case details

3/3/2005 - Kobe Bryant

DENVER -- With a terse news release and an even terser court filing, the sordid sexual assault case against Kobe Bryant that gripped the nation abruptly ended with an agreement that ensures the NBA star never goes to trial for what happened in a hotel room two years ago.

Few experts believed the civil lawsuit would ever be heard by a jury, saying it was unlikely that Bryant and the 20-year-old woman
who accused him of raping her relished the prospect of having to
divulge potentially embarrassing, intimate details in a courtroom.

The case tarnished both Bryant, 27, arguably the NBA's best player, and the woman, a former high school cheerleader who once tried out for "American Idol" and found herself the subject of
Internet speculation.

Terms of the settlement were not released. Law experts said the
agreement probably spelled out financial penalties for revealing
any details.

A two-sentence statement faxed to The Associated Press by
Bryant's attorneys said only that the matter had been resolved "to
the satisfaction of both parties."

"The parties and their attorneys have agreed that no further
comments about the matter can or will be made," the statement
said. A one-sentence motion for dismissal stipulating that the case
can never be refiled was filed simultaneously in Denver federal
court.

After a few more days of intense speculation about Wednesday's
settlement -- how much money, whether any details can ever be
released -- the case will quickly fade from view, said Denver
attorney Scott Robinson.

"Ultimately a new scandal, a new public shame will come along
and both the plaintiff and the defendant can pretty much go about
their lives," he said.

A Los Angeles Lakers spokesman said Bryant had declined comment
on the settlement. Bryant scored 26 points Wednesday night in
Boston, but the Celtics still beat the Lakers 104-101.

"It's in both parties' interests to have this remain
confidential," said Los Angeles attorney Steve Cron, who is
familiar with celebrity cases. "That's one of the incentives for
them to settle: He didn't have to do a deposition, the lurid
details wouldn't be posted on some Web site, she didn't have to
face the rigors of having a deposition by his lawyers and she'll
gain some privacy as well."

The lawsuit, filed three weeks before the criminal case against
Bryant collapsed last summer, sought unspecified damages for mental
injuries, public scorn and humiliation the woman said she has
suffered since their June 2003 encounter at the Vail-area hotel
where she worked. The woman hasn't commented publicly on the case.

Bryant, a married father of one, apologized for his "behavior
that night and for the consequences she has suffered," but
insisted the sex was consensual.

Shortly after jury selection began in the criminal case,
prosecutors in Eagle County dropped the single felony sexual
assault count after the woman told them she couldn't take part in a
trial.

Like the criminal case, the civil case ultimately would have
rested on the testimony of a woman Bryant's attorneys accused of
being a promiscuous, attention-seeking liar. Among other things,
the defense suggested she had sex with someone after leaving Bryant
and before she contacted authorities -- a claim her attorneys hotly
contested.

Speculation that a settlement was close increased Monday after
L. Lin Wood, one of the woman's attorneys, said Bryant's
long-awaited deposition three days earlier had been called off.

Colorado law makes it difficult for plaintiffs in civil cases to
win more than about $733,000. Wood has said that amount was too low
to fairly compensate the woman for the harm she claimed to have
suffered

Sports marketers have estimated Bryant lost $4 million to $6
million in endorsement contracts after his arrest. He has not
appeared in Nike commercials since the allegations surfaced, and
McDonald's and Nutella did not renew their deals with him after his
arrest.

Cynthia Stone, spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition Against
Sexual Assault, said she hopes the settlement brings some sense of
justice and closure for the accuser, who moved from state to state
to avoid media scrutiny last year.

"The defense team in the criminal case managed to get reams of
paper filled with rumor and innuendo about this young woman's prior
sexual history out into the public," Stone said.

As a result, victims' advocates are lobbying for a bill intended
to tighten Colorado's "rape shield" law. The bill, which has
passed the state Senate, would prohibit discussion of an alleged
victim's sexual history during a preliminary hearing unless a judge
rules otherwise.

In Eagle, the woman's hometown, former Mayor Roxie Deane was
cheered by news of the settlement. She said the case put the town
on the map, which wasn't necessarily positive. "Eagle is a great
place. It needs to be known for other things," she said.