Video: Dropping the case?

updated 8/6/2004 4:05:54 AM ET 2004-08-06T08:05:54

On Monday night, Judge Terry Ruckriegle released transcript of testimony from a defense expert who claims that the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape likely had sex with someone after her encounter with Bryant (but before her rape exam).  Her lawyers suggest the young women may now be ready to throw in the towel in the criminal case, but continue to pursue Bryant for civil damages.  On Wednesday's edition of ‘The Abrams Report,' Dan interviewed the victim's attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood to discuss the turn around in their client's case.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”: Is it possible the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant case will back out?

JOHN CLUNE, BRYANT ACCUSER‘S ATTORNEY: When we started this case, obviously we sat down and talked to her and we explained to her, "This is what you can expect. You can expect everything that you've ever done and probably some things that you haven't done to come out in the media. You can expect it to be in the tabloids."

What we didn't tell her and what we hadn't expected that she needed to expect that the very people that are supposed to protect her were not going to do that.

ABRAMS: But is she ready to go forward as of right now?

LIN WOOD, BRYANT ACCUSER‘S ATTORNEY: As of right now, she's ready to go forward, but keep in mind that this one-sided selective transcript that's been released that nobody has the ability to address before trial is somewhat devastating. So, I think that she and the prosecution will have to have that meeting in the very near future and make a decision about what they want to do.

ABRAMS: It sounds, Lin, like there are questions now about whether this case is going to move forward.

WOOD: I think there legitimately should be questions about whether the criminal case should move forward in light of the prejudice to this young girl's rights, resulting from the release of this one-sided transcript of a paid defense expert.

I think anyone would have to re-evaluate, "What am I doing and is this system treating me fairly?" I don't think the criminal justice system in Eagle, Colorado, has treated this young girl fairly at all, and this is a terrible blow to her to have this information come out with the prosecution unable to refute it three weeks before they're supposed to start the trial.

I've said before that I think she's got to consider whether she is best served in terms of finding justice in proving the truth of what happened that night in that hotel room, whether she's better served in this criminal procedure or whether she's going to get a fair shake in a civil action. I am of the mind that she's only going to be treated fairly in a civil case where the playing field is level and Mr. Bryant's life will be scrutinized.

ABRAMS: But it sounds like both of you are saying that there's a real possibility that this criminal case is not going to happen.

WOOD: I think it's going to be something that they've got to consider and some hard decisions have got to be made.

ABRAMS: Did this woman have sex after Kobe Bryant and before the rape exam?

CLUNE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

ABRAMS: No question?

CLUNE: No question whatsoever.

ABRAMS: She's come to you, and she said this is a non-issue.

CLUNE: This is a non-issue. Absolutely not.

ABRAMS: Might there be some sort of resolution whereby Kobe Bryant would say, "I am sorry for everything she's been through, but not accept responsibility for any sexual assault"?

CLUNE: No. That would be unacceptable. To apologize for the nature, the difficult nature of the court system that he and his attorneys have created and I think that that would be a sufficient means to get something like the case dismissed, that's not an acceptable option.

ABRAMS: But might there be a way, Lin, for Kobe Bryant to say something publicly that might put an end to the criminal proceedings or at least from the alleged victim's point of view?

WOOD: Kobe Bryant would have to publicly admit the truth of what happened in that hotel room that night, and I don't believe Kobe Bryant is willing to do that, because to do so would be the end of his career. I think he will continue to have his well-paid lawyers fight to try to avoid the truth from coming out.

ABRAMS: John, if she were sitting here right now and I were to say to her, "Why did you go up to that room?" what would she say?

CLUNE: I'll tell you what. The first thing that she would tell you is that there is nobody that has asked that question more than she has over the last year. If she could take that one moment back, that is the one thing that she would do to change all of this.

But as I've said before, one of the touchstones of addressing acquaintance rape is this concept, this age-old concept from victims and victims' rights groups that I wanted to kiss him. I wanted him to kiss me, not rape me.

WOOD: She's 19 years old, Dan. She made a mistake. Obviously, if any of us knew now what was going to happen in that room that night, she would have never have gotten near it. This girl is not the monster or the slut that she's been made out to be by the defense in this case. This girl is a fairly typical teenager, and she made a mistake.

ABRAMS: Is the young woman ever sorry that she went forward with this?

CLUNE: She's not sorry that she went forward with this.

ABRAMS: She doesn't ever say this just wasn't worth it?

CLUNE: No, she doesn't say that. She holds the people accountable that are responsible for the harm that she's suffered in this criminal justice system. But she doesn't regret doing the right thing.

ABRAMS: Do you ever think about saying to her, "Put this behind you, let's figure out a way out of this, I don't want you to face that criminal trial"?

WOOD: The responsibility of this young girl's attorneys is first and foremost to protect her and to work for her best interest. I am convinced and I think John is likewise convinced, and I think this young girl is convinced that her best interest would not be served by walking away from the truth.

ABRAMS: John, tell me about the most recent incident where the court put the young woman's name on the website. Did you have to call her to tell her, “I got to tell you, they did it again”?

CLUNE: I did. And those are the most difficult phone calls to make because I know what the response is going to be. I know that even prior to the last mistake by the court, this girl and her family had lost faith in this judge and his ability to maintain decorum in his courtroom.

That's why you heard me in court pleading with the judge to take down the web site, and stop e-mailing. Your office, for whatever reason, can't seem to do it without hurting the crime victim. And the fact that it happened again while he ignored our request was inconceivable. To have to call her and explain to her and maybe harder, to explain that to her mother was probably one of the most difficult calls I've had to make on this case.

ABRAMS: What did she say?

CLUNE: Her mother is in disbelief. I don't know if you asked her mother what she feels if she had to go back in time and make the decision about whether or not to report this case; I don't know what she would tell you. But the frustration is not just with the mistakes.  Mistakes happen. We know that. But the court has provided a forum by which those mistakes are published on worldwide fashion instantaneously. Not only the mistakes, but his refusal to take any action to correct those mistakes is what is offensive. And what compounds the matter, and one of the things that I don't have any explanation for to this family, is why we have never heard from the court on this issue. When this happens, they don't call us. They don't call the family. They don't call me. We hear from you. We hear from the media.

WOOD: He has not stood up and taken accountability for what he has repeatedly done wrong that has always been consistently prejudicial to this young girl. That order should have included a sentence that said the court regrets that this has occurred, acknowledges that it's the result of the court's mistake, and in the interest of giving the public and the participants the confidence that this will be a fair tribunal, get another judge. This judge should have stepped down, in my opinion.

That decision's going to be made in the next few days. You know it's, I would say likely. Because the bottom line is this young girl has got to make a decision, where can she best establish the truth of what happened that night.

ABRAMS: But people are going to say it's about the money. Yes, they're going to say now she's filing a civil lawsuit. This was always about getting Kobe Bryant's money.

WOOD: Everybody always said that when you file a civil lawsuit because the civil justice system by design compensates victims by financial compensation; fair compensation for injury done.

Let me suggest to you very strongly that Kobe Bryant raped this young lady. When a fair-minded person recognizes that to be the truth of the case, a fair-minded person will say he should compensate her for what he did to her that night. So, it's not about money. It's about establishing truth and it's about accountability.

ABRAMS: John, some have said that the prosecution case and the criminal case has been falling apart, that the detectives, even in the preliminary hearing seemed uncertain about when and whether the young woman had said no.

Now, you've got this new document being released, which seems to suggest from the defense point of view that she may have had sex with someone after Kobe Bryant. Is this a prosecution case falling apart?

CLUNE: It's not. But there are significant challenges to this case and the challenges are exacerbated by the judge's—or the court's own mistakes in releasing this prejudicial information. But the thing is, I know these prosecutors, I've worked with these prosecutors, and I know their case.

I would like nothing more than a jury from my community hears the facts that I know are going to come out at trial and return a verdict, but have a fair opportunity to hear those facts. And with the information that has been inadvertently released from the court, I don't know if that's ever going to happen.

ABRAMS: But you've got to concede it's a tough case for prosecutors.

WOOD: Any case of date rape or acquaintance rape is by definition a tough case. If you add in the fact that this particular defendant is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and has a very experienced and skilled defense team, an unlimited budget, if you build in on top of all that the inexcusable mistakes that have been made by the court in Eagle resulting in this type of prejudicial information coming out against this young girl three weeks before the trial, listen, it's a tough case. That any be an understatement.

ABRAMS: How do you prepare her for the cross examination that will certainly ensue in the criminal trial? She's going to be asked some really personal, tough questions.

CLUNE: It will be easy. And although the topic, the subject matter may be difficult, this girl will take the stand and she'll tell the truth about what happened. It needs very little preparation when you have the truth on your side.

ABRAMS: Finally, let me ask both of you this. John, do you expect that the criminal case will actually go to trial?

CLUNE: No. I expect that that's a decision that has to be made by the prosecution in the immediate future. That the disadvantage that they have suffered from this release of this one-sided transcript, like I said, if we were talking about Kobe Bryant's statements they'd be screaming for a dismissal.

ABRAMS: Makes you wonder whether it's going to go to trial.

CLUNE: It does. And that's something that the prosecution will have to deal with and hopefully they'll do that in closed consultation with this girl.

ABRAMS: Lin, do you expect that the criminal case will actually go to trial?

WOOD: Decision for the prosecution with closed consultation with this young girl. I will tell you that I believe that this type of prejudicial publicity generated from this report, this expert's opinion three weeks before the trial, in my view, the harm is irreparable. I don't think they can undo it.

CLUNE: But the one thing that you should know and that Kobe Bryant should know is that doing nothing, going away, is not an option. Whether this proceeds criminally, civilly or both, justice is going to be had for this young woman.

ABRAMS: All right. In my opinion, it sure sounds like this case is not going to trial in the criminal court. I now predict that the young woman and then the prosecutors will bow out before the trial. The alleged victim will move forward and sue Bryant in civil court. And eventually, I've got to believe this case is going to be settled out of court, but we shall see. The case is still scheduled to begin on August the 27th.

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