Kobe Bryant, an NBA champion who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, was accused of raping a woman in 2003 and faced a felony count of sexual assault. Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday, January 26, 2020, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others.
Kobe Bryant’s alleged rape victim was a 19-year-old woman who was working at a hotel in Colorado, where Bryant was a guest. He was in town for surgery on his knee. The woman went to police in Eagle, Colorado, shortly after the alleged assault to make a report. She told police she would take a polygraph test to prove she was telling the truth, if necessary, according to court documents filed in his case. Bryant initially denied having sex with the woman, but changed his story when he was told there was physical evidence in the case, police wrote in the affidavit of probable cause. You can read the affidavit in full here.
The criminal case was eventually dropped after it was tied up in court for more than one year. The Kobe Bryant rape accuser filed a civil lawsuit, which was settled out of court in 2005. You can read the civil lawsuit here.
Bryant issued two apologies in the case. After the charges were filed, he appeared in a press conference with his wife and attorney, saying he made “a mistake of adultery.” After the criminal charges were dropped, he wrote a letter apologizing to the victim, but saying he believed their encounter was consensual. You can watch the press conference here and read the letter here.
Here’s what you need to know about the Kobe Bryant rape case:
1. Kobe Bryant Was Charged With Felony Sexual Assault Following Allegations Involving a Teen at a Colorado Hotel in 2003 & He Claimed It Was Consensual
Kobe Bryant was officially charged with felony sexual assault after he was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman who was working at a hotel in Eagle, Colorado June 30, 2003 where Bryant was a guest, according to court documents filed in his civil case. The woman went to police immediately afterward and reported she was raped. The report led to a lengthy legal battle that lasted for more than one year before the woman decided to no longer pursue criminal charges. Bryant initially said he was falsely accused, but eventually reached a settlement in a civil case. You can read the civil lawsuit here. Bryant was in Colorado to have knee surgery.
The woman told police she would submit to a polygraph test to prove she was telling the truth, if necessary, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed in his case. Police also interviewed witnesses, who said the woman told them Bryant assaulted her, and they encouraged her to make a report. You can read the affidavit in full here.
The affidavit also summarizes a medical exam, which said the woman suffered lacerations and tears which appeared to be “consistent with penetrating genital trauma.”
Bryant’s interview with police was also annotated in the affidavit. First, he denied having sex with the woman. Police said he asked if there was a way to settle the case right then, saying his wife would be upset. When Bryant was told there was physical evidence in the case, police said he became agitated, said he had consensual sex with her and paused at length when asked if she ever told him no. He eventually said she “absolutely” did not tell him no, the affidavit said. He later told police it was consensual, saying “she gave him those ‘eyes,'” police wrote.
2. Court Documents Filed by Colorado Police Said Kobe Bryant Choked & Raped the Woman in a Hotel Room
An affidavit of probable cause filed in Koby Bryant’s case, which you can read in full here, said the hotel worker initially wanted to meet Bryant and gave him a tour of the hotel. The encounter turned to assault, police said, in his hotel room. She consensually hugged and kissed him, she said, although she told police he initiated that physical contact, and she wanted to leave. Police allege he blocked her from leaving the room when she told him she needed to get back to work. Police said Bryant then choked her and raped her.
“…Bryant put his hands around her throat and began choking her,” the affidavit said. “She said he wasn’t choking her so hard that she couldn’t breathe, but he had control of her. She stated he took off his pants. She told him she stated she needed to leave. He didn’t stop.”
She further told police she repeatedly tried to move away from him, and he moved in the same direction. The woman told police she was afraid he might cause additional physical harm to her. She told police Bryant raped her with a hand around her throat as she cried. Bryant said, “You’re not gonna tell anybody, right,” she recalled in her police interview. The woman told police she was physically hurt and bled a small amount, the affidavit said.
The woman told police Bryant would not let her leave the hotel room until she regained her composure, and he made her wash her face. There appeared to be dried blood in her underwear, the affidavit said.
Police also interviewed one of the woman’s colleagues, who told police she started crying and when he asked her what was wrong, she said Kobe Bryant had choked her. He said he encouraged her to tell her parents and the police, according to the affidavit.
Bryant’s interview with police was also paraphrased in the affidavit. He initially claimed he did not have sex with the woman, and then claimed the sex was consensual after police told him they had physical evidence.
3. The Woman Decided Not to Testify After Threats, Public Scorn & Ridicule, Her Lawsuit Said
The woman faced threats after accusing NBA star Kobe Bryant of raping her. She also faced a loss of reputation and mounting pressure to drop the criminal case, including advice from one of her own attorneys, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2005, at the conclusion of the civil case.
The lawsuit also described “public scorn, hatred and ridicule” she suffered, along with threats to her safety. You can read the civil lawsuit here.
“As a direct and proximate result of the sexual assault and rape perpetrated by Defendant Bryant upon her, Plaintiff has suffered physical pain and suffering,” the lawsuit said. “31. As a direct and proximate result of the sexual assault and rape perpetrated by Defendant Bryant upon her, Plaintiff has been subjected to public scorn, hatred, and ridicule and has suffered threats against her life and physical safety. 32. As a direct and proximate result of the sexual assault and rape perpetrated by Defendant Bryant upon her, Plaintiff has incurred special damages, including medical and legal expenses.”
The woman’s reputation was also tarnished as pre-trial motions held the case in court for more than one year.
The Times reported, “Also, said Denver legal analyst Larry Pozner, ‘the value of the case for her decreased as time went on and facts came out and her credibility was hurt.'”
Bryant’s attorneys claimed DNA evidence collected in her medical exam following the alleged rape indicated she had sex with another person within 15 hours of the reported sexual assault, and before the examination. Prosecutors denied that claim. Bryant initially told police he did not have sex with the woman, and then claimed it was consensual, the Times reported.
“Another factor in the woman’s decision to ask prosecutors to drop the case was repeated gaffes by the tiny court in Eagle that her attorneys and parents said caused her to lose faith in the judicial system. Her name was mistakenly released to the media three times, and a sealed transcript of a closed hearing on the DNA evidence was e-mailed to seven media outlets, including The Times,” the newspaper reported.
As a part of her agreement to drop the criminal case, she also negotiated an apology letter from Bryant that read, in part, “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual … I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent.”
You can read the letter in full here.
One of the woman’s attorneys released a statement during the announcement of the criminal case’s dismissal, which said, “The victim has informed us … that she does not want to proceed with this trial. For this reason, and this reason only, the case is being dismissed.”
4. Kobe Bryant Paid a Settlement to the Alleged Rape Victim Following a Civil Case
Kobe Bryant and the alleged rape victim agreed to a settlement out of court in a civil case. You can read the civil lawsuit in full here.
The lawsuit said Bryant and the woman, who was 19 at the time, met when she was working at the front desk of a hotel where he was a guest. After some flirtation and a tour of the hotel, she said he asked her to join him in his Jacuzzi. She declined, saying she was on the clock. The woman alleged he blocked her from leaving, kissed her and groped her. She said that she asked him to stop and tried to leave again. She alleged he physically restrained her, choked her and raped her.
While the exact terms of the lawsuit were not released, the Los Angeles Times estimated the payout may have exceeded $2.5 million. The civil case lasted 20 months and concluded in March 2005.
“Experts said that the settlement probably exceeded that amount because it included a confidentiality agreement, but that the damage to Bryant’s reputation from the criminal charge might have weakened the accuser’s leverage,” the Times reported.
The conclusion of the lawsuit came six months after the alleged victim decided not to testify in the criminal case, and one week before Kobe Bryant was scheduled for a deposition. Before the woman’s decision not to testify, the criminal case had already been tied up in court in pre-trial motions for more than one year.
The lawsuit said:
On June 30, 2003, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Defendant Bryant registered as a guest at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, a resort hotel located in Eagle, Colorado (the Cordillera Lodge & Spa).15. On June 30, 2003, Plaintiff was employed as a front desk clerk at the Cordillera Lodge & Spa. 16. After his check-in at the Cordillera Lodge & Spa on June 30, 2003, Defendant Bryant, out of the hearing range of his agents and bodyguards, asked Plaintiff to come to his room to escort him on a private tour of the resort hotel and its facilities. 17. Plaintiff agreed to Defendant Bryants request and during the tour of the hotel, Defendant Bryant flirted with Plaintiff and she was flattered by his comments and interest in her. 18. After taking Defendant Bryant on an approximate fifteen (15) minute tour of the hotel facilities, Defendant Bryant asked Plaintiff to escort him back to his room. 19. After she entered his hotel room, Defendant Bryant asked Plaintiff to join him in his jacuzzi but Plaintiff declined his offer, informing him that she needed to clock out of work. 20. After Plaintiff declined Defendant Bryants offer to join him in his jacuzzi, Plaintiff attempted to leave the hotel room and Defendant Bryant blocked her exit from the room, asking her for a hug. 21. Plaintiff hugged Defendant Bryant and he then began to kiss her lips and neck. 22. After a short period of time kissing her, Defendant Bryants voice became deeper and his acts became rougher as he started touching Plaintiffs breasts and groping her in her genital region and buttocks. 23. When Defendant Bryant began touching Plaintiffs breasts and groping her in her genital region and buttocks, Plaintiff immediately asked him to stop and informed him that she needed to leave the hotel room. 24. Defendant Bryant refused to allow Plaintiff to leave the room and stood between her and the room door.25. Defendant thereafter physically restrained Plaintiff with force and violence against her will by choking her with his hands around her neck while bending her over a chair in the hotel room. 26. Defendant Bryant pulled his pants down and lifted Plaintiff’s skirt, pulling down Plaintiffs panties while continuing to restrain Plaintiff by physical force and a perceived threat of potential strangulation if she resisted his advances. 27. With she was bent over the chair and forced by Defendant Bryant to remain in that position, Defendant Bryant sexually assaulted and raped Plaintiff, by unlawfully and knowingly inflicting sexual intrusion and penetration of her vagina against her will and without her consent in violation of the laws of the State of Colorado, including in violation of C.R.S. 18-3-402(1)(a) & 4(a).28. On information and belief, Defendant Bryant has a history of attempting to commit similar acts of violent sexual assault on females he has just met and has thereby established a pattern and practice of such unlawful acts.
5. Kobe Bryant Said He ‘Made the Mistake of Adultery’ After Charges Were Filed Against Him & Claimed Innocence
Kobe Bryant, his wife and his attorneys made a public appearance after charges were filed against him. He and his attorneys said they planned to fight the charges and claimed innocence. In the video, Bryant and his wife, Vanessa Bryant, both appear to be visibly shaken. Vanessa Bryant seems to grip her husband’s hands tightly as his attorney speaks.
Bryant apologized to his wife, saying the actions that led to the charges were “a mistake of adultery.” He proclaimed innocence while speaking about his love for his wife.
“You know. I didn’t force her to do anything against her will. I’m innocent. You know, I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making a mistake of adultery. I love my wife with all my heart. She’s my backbone,” he said.
He turned to his wife and said, “You’re a blessing. You’re the beat to my heart. You’re the air I breathe, and you’re the strongest person I know and I’m so sorry for having to put you through this, and to put our family through this. I’m a human being. I’m a man just like everybody else. I mourn, I cry, just like everybody else and I sit here before you guys embarrassed and ashamed for committing adultery.”
He also released a written statement, which said:
I am innocent of the charges filed today. I did not assault the woman who is accusing me.
I made the mistake of adultery. I have to answer to my wife and my God for my actions that night and I pray that both will forgive me.
Nothing that happened June 30th was against the will of the woman who now falsely accuses me.
These false allegations have hurt my family. I will fight against these allegations with all my strength. My wife is the strongest person I know. She is willing to stand by me despite my mistake. That means everything to me.
I have so much to live for. And by that I do not mean the contracts, or the money, or the fame. I mean my family. I will fight for them.
I appreciate all those who have supported me. Thank you for believing in me. My family and I are going to need your support and prayers now more than ever.
Vanessa Bryant also released a written statement saying she believed in her husband’s innocence and saying she would continue to stand beside him.
I know that my husband has made a mistake — the mistake of adultery. He and I will have to deal with that within our marriage, and we will do so. He is not a criminal.
I know that he did not commit a crime, he did not assault anyone. He is a loving and kind husband and father. I believe in his innocence.
Because I know him to be innocent, I will stand by him and we will face this together. I will give him all the strength and support he needs to face these false accusations. I will not let him face these accusations alone.
I know Kobe better than anyone. The great person you see on the court and in the public is a far greater person off the court.
Bryant eventually issued a letter apologizing to the victim but maintaining he thought the encounter was consensual.
His letter said:
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. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colo.
I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. 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. 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.
I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this 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.