WWW- [Kate Faber] The woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape has filed a civil lawsuit seeking monetary damages from the NBA star, a filing that requires a lower standard of proof but might complicate the impending criminal trial.
Attorneys for the 20-year-old woman asked for a civil jury trial and compensatory damages of at least $75,000, with punitive damages to be determined later. For now, both sides said the criminal trial will begin as scheduled Aug. 27.
Like the criminal case, the civil lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Bryant of attacking the woman in his room at a Vail-area resort on June 30, 2003, causing her emotional and physical problems that linger to this day.
Attorneys John Clune and Lin Wood said their client was owed money for pain, “public scorn, hatred and ridicule” she has suffered as a result of the alleged attack. They also accused Bryant of similar misconduct involving other women, but provided no details.
Bryant has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the woman, then 19, at the resort where she worked. The Los Angeles Lakers’ star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000 if convicted.
To win a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove only that it is more likely than not harm was caused by the defendant. Prosecutors in a criminal case have to convince jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed a crime, a much higher standard of proof.
Damages for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses in Colorado civil cases generally cannot exceed $733,000. Punitive damages cannot exceed the compensatory award and can be given only if the allegations are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Legal experts said a civil trial would allow Bryant’s defense lawyers to claim in the criminal case that her motives were purely financial. Colorado has a six-year statute of limitations in civil cases stemming from alleged sexual assault.
Bryant’s attorneys have already argued the woman falsely accused Bryant to gain the attention of a former boyfriend, and that she was given nearly $20,000 from a victims’ compensation fund.
“Now all of a sudden it looks like this whole thing was for money. If it’s otherwise, then why would she file a civil case?” said Dan Recht, former president of the Colorado Criminal Bar Association. “In my mind, they would never file a civil case without having a strategy of getting the criminal case dismissed.”
He also said the lawsuit could hurt the chances of winning a conviction.
“A jury in a criminal case will know this is not the end of the road,” Recht said.
Bryant’s defense attorneys did not return a message Tuesday. Wood and prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined comment. District Judge Terry Ruckriegle has issued a sweeping gag order.
The civil lawsuit comes a week after the accuser’s lawyers questioned whether their client could get a fair hearing of her accusation because of several mistakes in the criminal pre-trial procedures.
The accuser’s name has been included in filings mistakenly posted on a state court Web site and a court reporter accidentally e-mailed transcripts of a closed-door hearing on the woman’s sexual activities to seven news organizations, which published the details after winning a court fight with the judge.
“This case unfortunately has been the poster child for the very worst that we can treat a woman and a victim of sexual assault,” said Cynthia Stone, spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “She has been the one who has been put on trial in the court of public opinion.”