How The Kobe Case Should End

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers player, outside the courthouse in Eagle, Colo., for a pretrial hearing on the sexual assault charge he faces, 6-21-04
Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal matters for CBS News and

Below is the text of a press conference speech Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlburt ought to deliver, and soon, in the wake of Friday's rape-shield ruling that has left prosecutors reeling in the Kobe Bryant rape case:

Thank you all for coming. After careful consideration and a thorough review of the evidence in this case in light of Judge Terry Ruckriegle's recent rulings, the Eagle County District Attorneys' Office announces today that it has dropped the felony sexual assault charge against Kobe Bean Bryant. The dismissal of this charge has occurred in conjunction with a global settlement of all outstanding issues between Eagle County, Mr. Bryant, and the complaining witness in this case as well as her family.

We believe that this arrangement is fair and just in the circumstances and that it provides all parties to the case with a measure of satisfaction. We believe moreover that it will allow all of the individuals in this case to move on with their lives and try to put this sorry, sad story behind them as best they can.

We cannot and we will not discuss the specifics of the settlement. We can, however, confirm earlier media reports that Mr. Bryant has apologized in writing to the complaining witness in the case, as well as to her family, and that Mr. Bryant has agreed to pay a sum of money to her and also to several rape awareness organizations, including the Colorado Coalition against Sexual Assault. Although I cannot disclose the exact amounts, I can tell you that these sums are not insignificant.

In addition, at our insistence, Mr. Bryant also has agreed to reimburse Eagle County for certain expenses incurred by the County during the course of the case. We acknowledge that these payments by Mr. Bryant do not constitute an admission by him of any wrongdoing, either criminal or otherwise, either explicit or implied. But we also acknowledge that our part in this settlement does not constitute an admission by this office, either explicit or implicit, that Mr. Bryant is innocent of the charge against him.

I do not know if Mr. Bryant's letter of apology will be made public; that is a decision Mr. Bryant and the complaining witness and her family will have to make. I do know that Mr. Bryant has apologized to the complaining witness and her family for the pain he has helped caused over the past year. He also has authorized me to express to you his profound remorse and regret over the incident that occurred last June 30. I am sure that Mr. Bryant or his lawyers will have more to say about that.

By agreeing to this resolution of the case in this manner, we need to make three things very clear.

First, we reaffirm today the notion that rape is a particularly horrible and vicious crime that inflicts a terrible price on its victims and their families.

We also reaffirm today our faith in Colorado's rape shield law, which, in spite of the ruling in this case, remains strongly protective of rape victims in this state.

Finally, we urge all Coloradans, indeed, anyone who is watching this press conference or who has followed this case, not to let the intense media spotlight this case has generated, or the ugly rumors it has produced, to prevent or preclude or even hinder the reporting of rape.

It would be a tragedy, indeed, if this unique case became a symbol for the wisdom of silence about rape instead of a symbol for the need to reveal and confront the crime at every turn. If you are a victim of rape, or if you know someone who is a victim of rape, you should come forward in spite of what you may have seen or heard about this case. It is our hope that the extraordinary coverage of this case has helped to educate people, as never before, about the many resources, both public and private, that now available to victims of sexual assault.

The people of Eagle County, in particular, have a right to know why the case has ended short of trial after so much time and effort was placed into it. The answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is that we came to the conclusion that justice would best be served by stopping this case short of trial. The complex answer is that a confluence of factors made it more reasonable to stop than to proceed. Especially after Judge Ruckriegle's decision to allow at trial certain evidence of sexual activity on the part of the complaining witness, we came to the belief that we could not prove a sexual assault case against Mr. Bryant beyond a reasonable doubt.

We also came to the belief that the complaining witness in this case would thus be subject to additional victimization during the course of what would have been a public and heavily-covered trial. We came to the belief that the possibility of a conviction was too slight to warrant the further invasion of her privacy that a trial necessarily would generate.

As prosecutors, we have an ethical and legal duty not to pursue a case at trial that we do not believe we are likely to win at trial. When this case began, we believed that we could prove in court before a jury that Mr. Bryant had committed a felony sexual assault with the use of force. We based this belief on the facts and the law before us at the time.

We also believed that Colorado's rape shield law would bar from the jury certain information about the complaining witness that we still believe should be barred. We expected a vigorous defense challenge to the rape shield protections and we expected that we would win such a challenge. We did not. And having lost that battle, we believe it is time to end this war.

Moreover, apart from our duties to the citizens of Eagle County, as prosecutors we had a particular duty to the complaining witness in this case, a young woman who already has gone through more than any young person should have to go through. Through her attorney, and in direct communication with her, we ascertained that she was no longer comfortable proceeding to trial. This could not have been an easy decision for her after the year she has endured.

But although we are not duty-bound by her decision we have chosen to accept it. In doing so, we express no opinion about any of the evidence and information she supplied to us over the course of the past year. For that matter, we express no opinion going forward about the evidence and information Mr. Bryant has provided to us since last June. The time for such evaluations now has passed.

I know that many of you now will criticize this office either for bringing this case against Mr. Bryant in the first place or for now choosing to halt the proceedings. All I can say is that we made the decisions we believed were right at the time, both then and now, and that I hope we will in time get credit as an organization not just for how we handled this case but also how we reacted to the changes we faced as the case proceed toward trial.

We do not blame this result on Judge Ruckriegle, or on Mr. Bryant's defense team, or on the media, or on law enforcement officials or on anything else. We just hope that this resolution, coming when it does, helps the two young people at the center of this storm to begin to be able to move on with their lives. Now, are there are any questions?