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A Different Spotlight For Bryant Accuser

Woman Was Known for Singing, Acting

By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2004; Page A03

EAGLE, Colo. -- There is little doubt that the tall, blond young woman now labeled the "alleged victim" in the Kobe Bryant rape case once enjoyed the spotlight.

She sang, played the piano, acted in high school musicals and participated in talent shows. She even tried out early last year for the television show "American Idol," but didn't make the cut. She loved parties, attracted suitors and made friends easily. She seemed to thrive on being the center of attention, friends and acquaintances say.

Eagle has been inundated by reporters because of the Kobe Bryant rape trial. "It's a pretty small town, and this has had a big impact," said Jennifer Bliss, 29. (Barry Gutierrez -- Rocky Mountain News)

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But that was before she accused the Los Angeles Lakers guard and NBA superstar of sexually assaulting her in a Colorado hotel room, a decision that put her in a more notorious light. She has been harassed with death threats and obscene messages, stalked by private investigators and hounded by reporters.

The Washington Post and other media outlets have not published the woman's name or photograph because she is the alleged victim of a sex crime. But her name, picture, telephone number and e-mail address were widely circulated on the Internet immediately after Bryant was charged with third-degree felony sexual assault on July 18, 2003. Jury selection in the case began Friday in a rural central Colorado courtroom.

The woman was the subject, by name, of a Los Angeles radio talk show that questioned her motives in pursuing charges against Bryant, and national tabloids published her name and photo. Defense attorneys named her several times during pretrial proceedings, and she was identified in documents inadvertently disseminated to the media several months ago by the Eagle County court staff.

She dropped out of the University of Northern Colorado after one year. She has lived in four states in the past six months and has moved from job to job. Once outgoing and friendly, the young woman has tried for 14 months to fade into obscurity to no avail. Three men have been arrested for threatening her life.

"Her safety is at risk. . . . She can't live at home, she can't live with relatives, she can't go to school, or talk to her friends," the woman's mother wrote last spring in a letter to Colorado District Judge Terry Ruckriegle, pleading for a speedy trial.

"She can't go anywhere, even have a simple dinner with a friend," her mother wrote. "No one else involved in this case has had to make the life changes and compromises that my daughter has had to make and will need to continue to make until this case is over."

Just two years ago, the young woman was known mainly for her "beautiful voice," friends and acquaintances said. She wrote and performed her own compositions for Eagle Valley High School events, often meriting a special introduction and praise from the school's choir teacher.

She played the piano for years and the flute in the middle school band. A longtime choir member, she performed in school productions of "Fiddler on the Roof" and "The Music Man." She was a varsity cheerleader for the football team, wearing the red, black and white uniform of the Eagle Valley Devils.

She enjoyed typical teenage activities: traveling to Denver with friends to 'N Sync and Lauryn Hill concerts and spending a few weeks each summer at Lake Powell, Utah, on a houseboat owned by the family of one of her best friends.

"Sure she was a partyer. What else is there to do in a small town like this?" said Sara Dabner, 18, a senior at Eagle Valley High School in nearby Gypsum. "But she was a very well-rounded, caring person."

In her senior picture, the young woman smiles broadly and gazes straight ahead, an 18-year-old looking forward to the next chapter of her life. Friends say she aspired to be a singer or perhaps a music teacher.

Now 20, her life is a story interrupted, marked forever by the June 30, 2003, encounter with Bryant at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo. She was then a 19-year-old hotel clerk working a summer job; Bryant, 24 at the time, was a guest at the luxury lodge.

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