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Saturday, November 06, 2004  

Law: Bryant accuser wanted goodies

It is the kind of thing you hope isn't true. Would a young woman, even one who may be shallow, really accuse a celebrity of rape because she wanted to buy breast implants? Records of an interview of a witness in a notorious criminal case released recently make one wonder. A friend of the accuser in the Kobe Bryant rape case told a defense attorney the woman had a shopping list.

The Associated Press has the story.

DENVER (AP) - A month after a hotel worker accused NBA star Kobe Bryant of rape, she allegedly told a friend that she was considering suing him in civil court and planned to use any money she won for breast implants, a koala bear and opening a recording studio.

The details came in testimony from Sean Holloway, who knew the then-19-year-old woman from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, according to court documents released Friday.

During a closed hearing March 2, defense attorney Hal Haddon asked Holloway about a conversation with the woman near the end of July 2003, about a month after the alleged assault. The hearing was to determine whether information about the woman's sexual activities could be used in court against her.

Haddon asked whether the woman had mentioned the possibility of a civil lawsuit.

``She said that after the case was over it was something that she was most likely going to do,'' Holloway said.

He testified the woman, an aspiring singer, wanted to use any award money to open a recording studio and to pay for breast augmentation surgery for herself and a friend. He also said she would buy a koala bear for another friend who liked the animals.

If the accuser believed the legal system works that way, she was sadly mistaken. There are numerous barriers between claiming to be the victim of a crime and collecting money as a result. The complainant has to convince the police and the district attorney there are grounds for charges. A court has to agree that there is sufficient evidence for the case to go forward. Various rules of evidence must be followed when introducing evidence at trial, some of them not beneficial to the accuser. A jury has to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred.

Even after groundwork for a civil case has been laid, the whole shebang can fall apart before the plaintiff can collect a hefty check. It helps a great deal if the accused is convicted. But, that is not a guarantee of a verdict granting the accuser significant damages in a civil suit that follows. A jury can believe the criminal case disposed of the matter, or that the plaintiff did not suffer sufficient harm to justify awarding high damages. Without a conviction, the road becomes rougher. The accuser must establish the injury occurred and the accused is responsible without the record from the criminal case to rely on. Being perceived as a loser can impact how jurors treat the accuser in the civil case. Though the burden of proof is less stringent -- by a preponderance of the evidence -- jurors may be more skeptical of injuries that allegedly occurred during a crime than they would be under other circumstances. A more typical scenario, for example one involving an accident, provides objective evidence to be judged. A civil case based on allegations of an assault or rape will turn mainly on the credibility of the persons involved.

It isn't possible to know whether Bryant's accuser reached the conclusion she could make a lot of money from the alleged assault on her own, or, was misled by older people who should have known better. Either way, the situation points to a failing of education in our society. I believe teenagers and adults should have at least a basic understanding of how the criminal and civil justice systems work. Such knowledge would have prevented this young woman doing what might be lasting harm to her own reputation.

1:14 PM