Kobe Bryant sexual assault case
The Kobe Bryant sexual assault case began in July 2003 when the news media reported that the sheriff's office in Eagle, Colorado had arrested professional basketball player Kobe Bryant in connection with an investigation of a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee. Bryant had checked into The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, a hotel in Edwards, Colorado, on June 30 in advance of having surgery near there on July 2 under Richard Steadman. The woman accused Bryant of raping her in his hotel room on July 1, the night before the surgery.
Bryant admitted to an adulterous sexual encounter with his accuser, but denied the assault allegation. The case was dropped after Bryant's accuser refused to testify in the case. A separate civil suit was later filed against Bryant by the woman. This was settled out of court and included Bryant's publicly apologizing to his accuser, though admitting no guilt on his part.
Eagle County Sheriff investigators first confronted Bryant with the sexual assault accusation on July 2. During the July 2003 interview with investigators, Bryant initially told investigators that he did not have sexual intercourse with his accuser, a 19-year-old woman who worked at the hotel where Bryant was staying. When the officers told Bryant that she had taken an exam that yielded physical evidence, such as semen, Bryant admitted to having sexual intercourse with her, but stated that the sex was consensual. When asked about bruises on the accuser's neck, Bryant admitted to "strangling" her during the encounter, stating that he held her "from the back" "around her neck", that strangling during sex was his "thing" and that he had a pattern of strangling a different sex partner (not his wife) during their recurring sexual encounters. When asked how hard he was holding onto her neck, Bryant stated, "My hands are strong. I don't know." Bryant stated that he assumed consent for sex because of the accuser's body language such as her kissing him, putting her hand on his penis and bending over, but that he did not explicitly ask for her consent during the encounter. Bryant later said that he believed his accuser was capable of saying no because during the encounter he asked her if he could "cum on her face", and she said no.
Law enforcement officials collected evidence from Bryant and he agreed to submit to a rape test kit and a voluntary lie detector test. On July 4, Sheriff Joe Hoy issued an arrest warrant for Bryant. Bryant flew from Los Angeles back to Eagle, Colorado to surrender to police. He was immediately released on $25,000 bond, and news of the arrest became public two days after that. On July 18, the Eagle County District Attorney's office filed a formal charge against Bryant for sexual assault. If convicted, Bryant faced probation to life in prison.
On July 18, after he was formally charged, Bryant held a news conference in which he adamantly denied having raped the woman. With his wife, Vanessa, at his side, he confessed, in tears, to having an adulterous sexual encounter with her, but insisted that everything that happened between the two had been consensual.
As the hearings began, the prosecution accused Bryant's defense team of attacking his accuser's credibility. It was revealed that she wore underpants containing another man's semen and pubic hair to her rape exam the day after the alleged incident. Detective Doug Winters stated that the yellow underwear she wore to her rape exam contained sperm from another man, along with Caucasian pubic hair. Bryant's defense stated that the exam results showed "compelling evidence of innocence" because the accuser must have had another sexual encounter immediately after the incident. She told investigators that she grabbed dirty underwear by mistake from her laundry basket when she left her home for the examination. On the day she was examined, she said she hadn’t showered since the morning of the incident. The examination found evidence of vaginal trauma, which Bryant’s defense team claimed was consistent with having sex with multiple partners in two days.
The evidence recovered by police included the T-shirt that Bryant wore the night of the incident, which had three small stains of the accuser's blood on it. The smudge was verified to be the accuser's blood by DNA testing and probably was not menstrual blood because the accuser said she had her period two weeks earlier. It was revealed that Bryant leaned the woman over a chair to have sex with her, which allegedly caused the bleeding. This was the sex act in question, as the accuser claims she told Bryant to stop but he would not, and Bryant claims he stopped after asking if he could ejaculate on her face.
Trina McKay, the resort's night auditor, said she saw the accuser as she was leaving to go home, and "she did not look or sound as if there had been any problem". However, Bobby Pietrack, the accuser's high school friend and a bellman at the resort, said she appeared to be very upset, and "told me that Kobe Bryant had forced sex with her".
A few weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin, the accuser wrote a letter to state investigator Gerry Sandberg clarifying some details of her first interview by Colorado police. She wrote, "I told Detective Winters that on that morning while leaving I had car troubles. That was not true. When I called in late to work that day that was the reason I gave my boss for being late. In all reality, I had simply overslept...I told Detective Winters that Mr. Bryant had made me stay in the room and wash my face. While I was held against my will in that room, I was not forced to wash my face. I did not wash my face. Instead I stopped at the mirror by the elevator on that floor to clean my face up. I am extremely disappointed in myself and also very sorry to anyone misled by that mix-up of information. I said what I said because I felt that Detective Winters did not believe what had happened to me."
Bryant's defense lawyer Pamela Mackey asserted that the accuser was taking an anti-psychotic drug for the treatment of schizophrenia at the time of the incident. The accuser was hospitalized as a "danger to herself" four months before the alleged sexual assault. Lindsey McKinney, who lived with the accuser, said the woman twice tried to kill herself at school by overdosing on sleeping pills. Before the alleged incident, the accuser, an aspiring singer, tried out for the television show American Idol with the song "Forgive" by Rebecca Lynn Howard, but failed to advance. In addition to the woman's moral character and reputation being challenged by Bryant's defense lawyer, she received death threats and hate mail.
On September 1, 2004 Eagle County District Judge Terry Ruckriegle dismissed the charges against Bryant, after prosecutors spent more than $200,000 preparing for trial, because his accuser informed them that she was unwilling to testify.
Before the case was scheduled to go to trial, his accuser filed a civil lawsuit against Bryant over the incident. The two sides ultimately settled that lawsuit, with specific terms of the settlement being undisclosed to the public. Bryant did, however, issue the following statement through his attorney, as part of an agreement with the accuser to dismiss the sexual assault charge:
First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colo.
I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.
I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado.
Eight months after the initial incident, the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera remodeled and as part of that sold some furniture. There was speculation that some pieces included in this sale were from "Room 35" where Kobe Bryant had allegedly stayed at the time. The lodge denied this and stated they had disposed of the furniture from that room separately.
Bryant signed a seven-year, $136 million contract a year after the allegations, and regained several of his endorsements from Nike, Spalding, and Coca-Cola. He was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008 and the Finals' Most Valuable Player in 2009 and 2010.
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