Observations of An Ex-Cop in La-La Land
...in the clear at last?
Did he or didn't he do it?
Will we ever really know?
By ANDY MURCIA
When I first heard on the news that basketball great Kobe Bryant was arrested on charges that he raped a woman in a Colorado hotel last year, I was shocked.
According to media reports, the woman told police she had gone voluntarily to the hotel room of the Los Angeles Lakers star, that they had kissed, but that Bryant then forced her to have sexual intercourse against her will. She filed rape charges against him, but, after an avalanche of publicity and months of legal moves, the woman refused to testify against Bryant in court, so the prosecution withdrew all charges.
Then the media reported the alleged victim would instead file civil charges against Bryant. Finally, on March 1, the media reported Bryant's accuser had accepted a financial settlement and would drop the civil charges.
After hearing that, I have to wonder: Does money make the accusation of rape go away?
Undoubtedly, there are lots of people, like me, who will suspect the original charges may have been made just to collect money.
Yes, I realize that testifying against Bryant in court would require his accuser to face a jury and maybe a pretty brutal cross-examination by his lawyers. Before she pulled out of the criminal case, Bryant's lawyers had pressed hard for the right to drag out the accuser's past sexual history and parade it before the jury. By going the route of a civil suit, the accuser would dodge some of the tougher aspects of proving her case.
Likewise, Bryant knew that even though he no longer faced a possible prison term, this awful publicity about him would go on and on for another year or so. By paying off the accuser, he could go back to fame and fortune while his reputation started to heal.
Just the same, it bothers me to see money supposedly make up for an alleged rape. Maybe I just miss the old fashioned court cases where somebody charges somebody else with a criminal act and the defendant is found either guilty or not guilty.
In my days as a police officer in Chicago, I saw numerous rape victims. Most were brutally beaten or the rapist employed a knife or gun in the commission of the rape. Some cases were what we called date rape cases, the ones where she said no and he said yes, please. Ive also seen rape cases that were more like assaults with a friendly weapon--the kind where there was no real or implied force, but something ticked the woman off and she hollered rape.
There were also the very severe cases where there was clear evidence of penetration of the victim and physical signs the man had demanded the control over his victim that most rapists desire. Of course, there can be rapes where there was no physical beating nor use of a weapon. A man can be guilty of rape simply by proceeding against the woman's will. However, most state rape statutes do include that force or implied force be an element of the rape statute.
I hope one day the accuser of Kobe Bryant will offer us all a direct and detailed explanation as to why she refused to testify after she claimed Bryant raped her. I don't believe it was her fear of losing her anonymity. I can say this: I do not know the name of this alleged victim nor do any of my friends. I suspect her privacy was being maintained.
In fairness, I suspect there are wealthy sports figures who think they can have any girl they want and if the girl refuses, push on by force or some other coercive tactic. We never saw any evidence that convinced me that is what happened in the Kobe Bryant case. Maybe that evidence would have come out in court, but we'll never know.
When I investigated a rape case as a police officer, I always wanted to know the answers to these questions:
What, if any, force was used? Did the offender have a weapon? Did the victim scream or try in some other manner to get others to come to her aid? Did the victim know the offender? If yes, to what extent? How much time elapsed before the victim reported the rape to authorities? If there was a long delay in reporting it, what was the reason?
Was there penetration? Was there bodily injury of any kind? Was there any evidence of semen or anything else that would leave DNA evidence?
The answers to these basic questions would start my investigation. There would be many more questions needing answers before it would be concluded. In the Kobe Bryant case, most of those questions remain unanswered.
If Bryant didnt rape this woman, then he sure got a raw deal. If he did, then I must suspect the victim let him off the hook for a settlement of money. Any of us who have a daughter, wife, or female loved one really do not appreciate anyone getting off if they are truly guilty. Can we now safely assume Kobe Bryant is not guilty?
In view of all this, I must give him the benefit of the doubt. Not because Im a Lakers fan, but more because the guy was man enough to admit that he was guilty of adultery on national television. His beautiful wife was right by his side. He said the sex between him and the woman was consensual.
Call it cop instinct, but I believe the man. I also have a son who's being raised to know that if a girl says no, then its no. He has also been raised to tell the truth and to respect everyones rights. As a father I can only pray that he will be respected and be treated fairly by others.
Bryant lost millions of dollars in endorsements because of this now dead case, according to media reports. Ive heard how he's still being booed when his team plays the Denver Nuggets. Im sure his lawyers' bill is a doozy and those humiliating walks he had to make in and out of courtrooms certainly had to be embarrassing. Millions of fans that admired his basketball play may have had to question their loyalty to him.
Altogether, Bryants reputation has taken a coast to coast hit. His marriage must now be about as complicated as the Lakers' triangle offense. Bottom line: Kobe took his punishment, as a married man should for having sex with a woman not his wife. He paid the money to the victim and is now trying to move on and play basketball.
You can call it a settlement to a civil tort if you wish, but I call it a lot of unanswered questions. The other day in the barbershop, someone said, Remember when talking basketball didnt sound like a soap opera?
Im sure Kobe Bryant longs for that time to return--as quickly as possible.
©2005 by Andy Murcia. The caricature of Andy Murcia is ©2003 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted March 7, 2005.
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