Why Kobe's Accuser Decided to Fold

November 2004

Just when you thought fascination with the Kobe Bryant case had finally run its course, the Los Angeles Times comes out with a long investigative piece describing the final weeks of the case, with juicy tidbits as to why the accuser folded and how Kobe's apology was worked out. The article, for once, is based upon statements by prosecutors and the accuser's civil lawyers, as opposed to anonymous sources or legal analysts. In a nutshell, the accuser reportedly performed so badly during a cross-examination at a mock trial held just a few weeks before the scheduled start of the real trial, that both prosecutors and her civil lawyers knew she had to fold:

For more than three hours, a lawyer playing the role of Bryant defense attorney Pamela Mackey pounded away at the accuser and the account she had given police. The lawyer pointed out that in her police statement the woman said she had kissed Bryant consensually for five minutes before the alleged assault. "All right, let's start now," the lawyer said, looking at his watch. For the next 60 seconds the courtroom was silent. "You're still kissing him," the lawyer broke in, continuing to look at his watch. "You kissed him for four more minutes." "That's too long," she responded. "We didn't kiss that long." The lawyer pounced: "Well, you said five minutes." The woman crumbled, and seven days later so did the criminal case against Bryant, superstar guard of the Los Angeles Lakers and one of the nation's wealthiest and most celebrated sports figures.

The apology was crafted in utmost secrecy during intense negotiation sessions conducted by her civil lawyers and local defense lawyers who were on the team but not members of Haddon and Mackey's firm.

Unknown to the attorneys on both sides girding for their court showdown, Clune was meeting less than 15 miles away with O'Connor and another defense lawyer, Mark Johnson, who had been authorized by Haddon to work out the final apology language. By the time prosecutors emerged from the retreat, Johnson had agreed to a much stronger statement, while insisting that it include language establishing that it could not be used against Bryant in the civil case. It began: First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. "In the old version Bryant apologized only for what she had gone through," Clune said. "The new version had him apologizing directly to her in the first sentence." Johnson agreed to two other sentences in Bryant's statement that sealed the deal: Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent to this encounter.

There are new details of the bitter feud that developed between two of the prosecutors, who ended up not on speaking terms as the trial was about to begin. Just about the only lawyers not quoted in the article are Pam Mackey and Hal Haddon, who have consistently refused to speak with the press, citing ethical reaons. The article sounds like a prelude to a book on the case. Times reporter Steve Henson doggedly has been following the case since the beginining.