DENVER - Three months after prosecutors dropped a sexual assault charge against Kobe Bryant, attorneys for the NBA star prepared to return to court for the first hearing in a civil lawsuit filed by his accuser.
Neither Bryant nor the 20-year-old woman was expected in federal court for Wednesday’s hearing in the suit, which seeks unspecified damages for pain, ridicule and scorn the woman says she has suffered since her encounter with Bryant at a Vail-area resort in June 2003.
“Now it becomes a question of whether he or she are looking for some form of public vindication through a civil trial,” said Denver attorney Craig Silverman.
The woman filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Aug. 10, about three weeks before she told prosecutors she no longer wanted to participate in the criminal case.
Wednesday’s hearing is expected to be routine, devoted mostly to setting deadlines and schedules, but court rules allow for a broad range of other actions.
“This is one of the first minor pressure points in the case,” Silverman said. “Pressure points can sometimes lead to settlements, but I would be surprised if that was announced.”
John Clune, the woman’s Colorado attorney, declined to comment on whether a settlement has been discussed.
L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta attorney who is also part of the woman’s legal team, said he did not expect any surprises Wednesday.
Wood said he does expect Bryant’s attorneys to bring up the fact that the accuser is considering filing another civil suit against Bryant in state court in Orange County, Calif., where the 26-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star lives.
California does not limit damages in a civil lawsuit. Colorado law, which will govern the lawsuit in Denver federal court, makes it difficult for a plaintiff to collect more than $733,000.
Wood has said that’s far less than fair compensation for the intense media scrutiny, death threats and loss of privacy the accuser has faced.
If a second lawsuit is filed in California, both cases could move forward simultaneously, Wood said. He said no decision has been made.
Bryant’s attorney Pamela Mackey did not return a call.
In a court filing earlier this month, Mackey said any adverse publicity about the woman can also be blamed on the media and the state court system, which mistakenly released the woman’s name and a transcript of a closed-door hearing on her sexual activities.
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