The Colorado woman who has accused basketball star Kobe Bryant of raping her at a resort last year filed a federal civil lawsuit against him Tuesday seeking at least $75,000 in damages for the alleged assault.
Bryant, 25, who has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, is scheduled to stand trial on criminal charges from the alleged incident later this month in the mountain village of Eagle, Colo.
In the civil lawsuit, the woman, 20, identified as "Jane Doe," outlines the same case prosecutors are making against Bryant, who has called his sexual encounter with the woman in his hotel room consensual. She was employed at the hotel at the time of the alleged incident in June 2003.
She charges that Bryant, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, groped her, blocked her from leaving his room and then violently forced her to have sex with him. The civil suit calls Bryant's conduct "willful, reckless, and intentional criminal conduct" and alleges that he has a "history" of attempting to commit such acts, but it does not specify any.
The filing of the suit follows several recent setbacks for prosecutors. Some legal observers said it could indicate that the woman is signaling a willingness to drop the criminal case. Attorneys in the case cannot comment on it because the judge has imposed a gag rule.
Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, scoffed at that suggestion on Tuesday. "We are still moving forward," she told the Associated Press. Jury selection in the Bryant trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 27.
Last month, Bryant's legal team won a potentially important tactical victory when Colorado Judge W. Terry Ruckriegle ruled that evidence of the woman's alleged sexual activities in the days before her encounter with Bryant at the resort could be presented to a jury at his criminal trial.
By filing a civil suit, the woman could be enhancing her chances of holding Bryant accountable for his alleged actions. A conviction in a criminal case requires a higher standard of proof of guilt than a judgment in a civil case.
If convicted on criminal charges, Bryant, who is one of the world's most celebrated basketball players, could face four years to life in prison and be subject to fines in excess of $700,000. He could also be subject to 20 years of probation. If he loses in a civil suit, he probably would have to pay a large financial settlement to the woman.
In the civil suit, attorneys for the woman are asking for a jury trial. They say that they will outline at a later date the punitive damages they plan to seek from Bryant.
The woman's criminal case against Bryant may also have been complicated in recent weeks by the accidental disclosure by court officials of sealed documents that included her name and some intimate details about her, in violation of state rules designed to protect her privacy. The details were posted briefly on the Internet before being removed.