Alleged victim is not "accuser’
Across the headlines of hundreds of newspapers, magazines and television shows, the American media has repeatedly referred to Kobe Bryant’s alleged victim as his “accuser.”
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, to accuse someone means “to charge (a person) judicially or publicly with an offense.”
Bryant’s alleged victim has not accused him publicly and it was not her decision to charge him judicially. On the contrary, she has remained silent, hiding from the media and trying to restore the regularity of her life while waiting to take orders from the prosecutors who made the command decision to file charges against Bryant.
Despite the common misperception that the alleged victim pointed her finger at Bryant and cried rape, she actually told her mother what had happened. It was her parents who decided to call 911 and report the incident. After thoroughly questioning the alleged victim and Bryant, police got an arrest warrant from a judge who authorized them to detain him. Shortly thereafter, prosecutors met and jointly made a decision based on their legal authority to accuse Bryant on behalf of the people on Eagle County.
The alleged victim, all the while, simply did as she was told, answering questions and providing authorities the information they needed. At 19 years old, armed only with a high school education and a year of college, this young lady took a courageous step to do what very few people in her situation would ever do. She reported a type of crime that very few women ever report, making an allegation that has spun her life out of control and subjected her to sadistic attacks from the public and press.
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To date, she has received a variety of death threats and has had her photograph exposed by the tabloids. Cowardly Internet posters who hide behind a veil of cyberspace posted her personal information online while one very uncouth and heartless radio broadcaster in California revealed her full name. All of this, while suffering the indignities of being called a liar who is out for fame and fortune rather than justice.
Perhaps it’s because Bryant is such a good basketball player that so many Americans are showing their blind support for him, even though they have no way of knowing whether he’s really telling the truth. They’d prefer to show support for a man accused of rape simply because he so elegantly throws an orange rubber ball into a netted hoop.
Perhaps what is mystifying is why some people thinks that a man’s stunning success as an athlete would constitute his character as a law-abiding citizen. After all, a number of sports athletes have had their share of criminal mishaps.
We’ve all heard it before. Bryant was supposedly different that other athletes. He was the NBA’s golden boy, a nice, honorable guy who set an example to his fans across the nation. Some example. If Bryant received half the criticism that our former president did for having extramarital relations, it’s doubtful he’d be sheltered with the misguided loyalty his fans shield him with.
There is no way to know whether Bryant is guilty of the accusations that Eagle County prosecutors have made against him.
However, if anyone deserves to have their character questioned in this tale of judicial woe, it’s certainly not the 19-year-old college student who ran to her mother with tears in her eyes, asking for her help. Unlike Bryant, who lied to the police about having relations with the young woman, there’s no evidence she’s lied to anyone about anything.
America will have its chance to find out who’s telling the truth in the matter of the People v. Kobe Bryant. In the meantime, perhaps those who have already made up their minds should give the alleged victim a chance to tell her story where it belongs, in front of a jury in a courtroom rather than seeing it cruelly spun against her on the covers of supermarket tabloids.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative reporter working on the Kobe Bryant case. He is also studying constitutional law at the University of Florida.