Accuser’s lawsuit against Bryant not over
When attorneys in the civil case against Kobe Bryant say, “We have not yet begun to fight,” they mean it – literally.John Clune, an attorney for Bryant’s 20-year-old accuser, said Wednesday during the hearing to dismiss the criminal case that the civil case filed in federal court did not enter into his client’s decision not to testify in the criminal trial. He reiterated Friday that despite widespread speculation to the contrary, there is no settlement in the civil case and there have been no discussions.”We’re proceeding with the mindset that there will be a trial,” said Clune.Clune and Atlanta-based civil attorney Lin Wood filed a lawsuit against Bryant in Denver federal court Aug. 10 on behalf of the young woman accusing him of sexual assault. That lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of money above $75,000.The dismissal of the criminal case hinged on Bryant agreeing to and signing an apology to the woman, sources said. Negotiations over Bryant’s apology and statement had been progressing for weeks, sources said. Included in Bryant’s apology is a line saying, “She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case.” And Bryant’s attorneys called the apology, “the price of freedom,” in a statement to ESPN. Bryant’s local defense attorney, Terry O’Connor, huddled with Clune and Wood just hours before the case was dismissed Wednesday. Interestingly, it was Wood who distributed copies of Bryant’s apology to reporters gathered outside the Eagle County courthouse just minutes after a judge dropped all charges.
“First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident,” said Bryant’s statement. “I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year … I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”With the criminal case dismissed, Bryant and his attorneys can now narrow their focus from two legal battlefields to one.”I understand that the civil case against me will go forward,” Bryant said in his apology. “That part of the case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the State of Colorado.”Who’s Lin Wood?For the civil case, Clune enlisted Wood’s aid. The Atlanta-based Wood heads a 300-person firm and has made a living of high profile civil cases. Wood made his reputation with John and Patsy Ramsey, and Richard Jewell, a security guard who was falsely implicated in a bombing during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.”By bringing Lin Wood into the case, you know John is serious, and Mr. Bryant’s people had better know it, too,” said local defense attorney and former state and federal prosecutor David Lugert.
Wood grabbed the nation’s attention when he first aired the 911 call made in the Ramsey case and used it in a crusade to exonerate John and Patsy Ramsey, identified by Boulder police as suspects in the December 1996 slaying of their 6-year-old daughter, JonBenet. He worked to repair the Ramsey’s reputation after they became the targets of tabloid smear campaigns.His appearance as part of the woman’s personal legal team in her case against Bryant is no accident. His name popped up last summer as someone who might help the young Eagle woman when the tabloids were savaging her.The Ramseys had also hired one of Bryant’s defense attorneys, Harold Haddon, to help them through the legal process. When Haddon’s work was done and the grand jury refused to indict the Ramseys, Wood started suing everyone within subpoenaing distance.Legal experts say his specialty is making journalists stick to the facts.Before Jewell and Olympics bombing, Wood had never handled a libel case. During an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” with correspondent Mike Wallace, footage was aired of NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw’s coverage of the Olympic bombing. Wood said on the air that he’d sue both Brokaw and NBC. He did, and NBC paid a reported $500,000.”I think the media should be treated like any other corporation that is, in effect, putting out a product to make tons of money,” Wood has said. “They ought to be accountable for their negligence.”
He sued Fox News for $12 million, saying a reporter intentionally ignored evidence clearing the Ramseys when she stated in a report that “there has never been any evidence to link an intruder to (JonBenet’s) brutal murder.””My goal is not to go out and be an ….,” he is quoted as saying. “But if the other lawyer decides that’s the way he wants to play the game, I can live with the theory that I can out-…. anyone.”Randy Wyrick writes for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.Vail Colorado