The criminal case against Kobe Bryant case collapsed Wednesday as prosecutors dropped the sexual assault charge against him, saying they had no choice because the NBA star’s accuser no longer wanted to participate.
Bryant, whose trial had been days from opening arguments, responded with an apology to the woman who had accused him and whose civil suit for damages is still pending.
“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,” Bryant said. “I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
The woman’s attorney, John Clune, said she has been through an extremely difficult time since she alleged she was raped, and that she was disturbed by a series of courthouse mistakes that included release of her name and medical history. She has been the subject of death threats and relentless media coverage in the high-profile case.
“It is in her sincere belief that when this case ends, she does not want to be brought back into the criminal process,” Clune said.
“The difficulties that this case has imposed on this woman the past year are unimaginable.”
The dismissal marks a dramatic but not entirely unexpected turn in the high-profile case against one the NBA’s brightest young stars. For months, prosecutors had insisted they had a strong enough case to win a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, but legal experts said their case was greatly weakened when Bryant’s attorneys convinced the judge to allow some evidence about his accuser’s sexual history.