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Accuser's attorneys: Suit to turn focus on Bryant

NBA star's apology key to criminal case's dismissal, lawyer says

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Attorneys for Bryant's accuser talk about the criminal case.
Kobe Bryant

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Nearly a week after a sexual assault charge against Kobe Bryant was dropped, attorneys for the woman who accuses the NBA star of raping her said Tuesday the upcoming civil suit will turn the focus away from their client and more toward Bryant.

"Because this case has now been dismissed, Kobe Bryant cannot take the Fifth Amendment. He will have to testify. We'll have an opportunity to cross-examine him in a deposition under oath," attorney L. Lin Wood said Tuesday on CNN's "American Morning."

Wood said Bryant's signed statement admitting that he recognizes that his accuser did not see their encounter as consensual was the key in getting his client to decide not to pursue the criminal charge. (Full statement)

"If Kobe Bryant had not agreed to those words in a signed public statement, we would still have a criminal case being tried today," the attorney said. "She would have gone forward, even knowing that in that system she was not going to be treated fairly."

John Clune, the 20-year-old woman's personal attorney, said Bryant's statement "both apologizing to her directly and also admitting and conceding he sees why she felt like this encounter was nonconsensual" was "powerful."

In the document, Bryant apologized to the woman "for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year."

After the statement's release Wednesday, even as jury selection in the trial was under way, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle dismissed the single charge of felony sexual assault against the Los Angeles Lakers guard.

Prosecutor Mark Hurlbert told the court that the alleged victim "is unable to go forward" with the trial and that she requested "that at no time this case be refiled."

Clune told CNN his client had doubts that she would receive a fair trial in Eagle, Colorado.

"It was certainly a series of events that led to this conclusion," Clune said.

Among those was the court's accidental release of transcripts from a closed-door hearing in which a defense expert testified that she believes the woman had sex with another man after her June 30 encounter with Bryant but before she underwent a rape exam the next day.

In another incident, the judge apologized to "the people of Eagle County, the people of Colorado and to those who have come from far away for the mistake made by the court" for the mistaken release of a sealed order that included the name of Bryant's accuser.

In June, a 206-page transcript that dealt with the accuser's sexual history was mistakenly sent to the news media. And last September, the court forgot to redact the accuser's name from documents.

The accuser's civil suit, filed in federal court in Denver, seeks unspecified monetary damages and alleges Bryant has a "history of attempting to commit similar acts of violent sexual assault on females he has just met."

Wood said a jury will decide what compensation the woman deserves.

"The injury is enormous. This young girl will live with the scars of this rape for the rest of her life as well as the aftermath of being involved in this incident," he said.

"Her privacy has been invaded, and her reputation has basically been destroyed. It's going to take her the rest of her life to get over it, if she really ever can."

Bryant, 26, could have been sentenced to four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if found guilty of the criminal count of sexual assault against him.

The alleged victim said Bryant raped her at a Vail-area resort where she worked and where the basketball superstar was staying.

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