Guest Column: Kobe civil trial-to be or not to be

The script began with the prosecuting attorney Lin Wood’s opening dialogue on “Good Morning America:” “She’s obviously got to rethink what she’s going to do,” in reference to whether the alleged victim was going to withdraw from the criminal case against Kobe Bryant. If there was any uncertainty in those remarks, it was dispelled by her follow-up statement that a civil suit might be filed against Bryant. By this admission it was clear that her client’s already tainted credibility was being further undermined by fueling speculation that this was “always about money,” and the moving force behind the criminal charges.

While it may indeed be an unfair assumption that money was the primal force behind the criminal charges, it nevertheless hamstrung the prosecution and sealed their fate as it signaled that the alleged victim was abandoning the prosecution ship.

Then, as if Kobe’s team was dancing a tango with the alleged victim, Kobe offered a carefully crafted statement that went far beyond a simple apology to her. You can bet every word was written by her attorneys in anticipation of the next phase of, dare I say, civil negotiations.

Bryant said, “I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences that she suffered in the past year … I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure.” Hmm, could he be referring to his less-than-chivalrous conduct that infamous night as well as the relentless attack on her character and alleged sexual behavior with other men? Bryant then said, “I want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman …” Of course no money was paid to her at that time, as it would have amounted to bribery or worse. But you can bet your sweet bippy that Bryant and his team were making the right settlement noises … the prelude to what must happen before the parties can reach monetary terms.

“I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” That last statement, so canny and guileful, signals to the accuser Bryant’s acknowledgement that she was in fact a victim, that as she perceives it she was violated and wronged; yet Bryant, inches from the abyss, does not step into the swamp of a criminal admission. While he purports to say that the civil process will continue, the code language is clear; she was wronged, he will pay to assuage her wounds. End of story.

The real question is how will this be done? Under Colorado law, the victim can only recover $750,000. Do not be fooled, for that does not mean that Bryant cannot privately agree to pay more money to silence his accuser in an effort to head off a civil trial that might prove embarrassing. Whatever sum ultimately is agreed upon, it is miniscule compared to the cost of his highly regarded attorneys Hal Hadden and Pamela Mackay who would otherwise have to try this civil case as well as to his reputation. It will better serve Bryant to settle this case for whatever figure he can, as quickly as possible, under a confidential settlement agreement that will stem the possible disclosure of unfavorable character evidence against Bryant regarding his alleged dalliances with other women. A pattern of conduct that is inadmissible in a criminal trial, could very well be admissible in a civil trial. And that could further damage Bryant’s already tainted reputation and make it even more difficult to secure endorsement contracts in the future.

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Let’s face it, while we love to watch his basketball artistry, Bryant is no longer the boy we would send our kids to MacDonalds to meet. Family-oriented products will probably not seek his endorsement, which represents a potential loss of hundreds of millions over the duration of his basketball playing days.

Bryant has paid an enormous price for a brief dalliance with this young woman. He will have paid millions in defense and settlement, and will have lost hundreds of millions in endorsements. Joan Baez got it right when she mused, “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you are going to live now.”

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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