Charges against Bryant dropped

Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:13 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

EAGLE, Colo. — The Kobe Bryant case collapsed Wednesday as prosecutors said they had no choice but to drop the sexual assault charge against the NBA star because his accuser no longer wanted to participate.

Bryant, whose trial was days from opening arguments, responded with an apology to the woman who had accused him.

“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.”

With the parents of the 20-year-old accuser looking on, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle threw out the case under a deal that means no charges will be refiled.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told Ruckriegle the woman did not want to testify or otherwise participate in the trial.

The woman’s attorney, John Clune, said she has been through an extremely difficult time over the 14 months since she alleged she was raped, and a series of courthouse mistakes that included release of her name and medical history disturbed her.

“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 have imposed on this woman the past year are unimaginable.”

The dismissal marks a stunning turn in the high-profile case against one the NBA’s brightest young stars. For months, prosecutors insisted they had a strong enough case to win a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

Instead, prosecutors backed away days before opening statements were scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Jury selection was scheduled to wrap up this week.

Bryant, who still faces a federal civil lawsuit filed by the accuser that seeks unspecified damages, apologized to the victim “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,” said Bryant, who also apologized to her family, his family and friends and the citizens of Eagle.

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