Bryant Case Spurs Debate on Victim Treatment

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The mother of the 19-year-old woman who has accused the basketball star Kobe Bryant of sexual assault appealed to the judge in the case on Thursday, beseeching the court to do what she believed Colorado’s rape victim laws had so far failed to do: protect her daughter, the New York Times reports.

“I would like to share with you the reality of my daughter’s life,” the woman wrote in a letter asking Chief Judge W. Terry Ruckriegle of District Court to assure her daughter’s safety by setting a trial date soon. “She has received literally hundreds of death threats on the phone, in the mail and e-mail. In addition, she has received thousands of obscene messages. We are constantly worried about her safety.”

Despite laws that are intended to shield sex-crime victims from the withering scrutiny once common in rape cases, and the prohibitions against publishing their names or photographs, the woman in the Bryant case has become widely known, her anonymity obliterated partly by the celebrity culture that surrounds Mr. Bryant.

She has also faced extensive public skepticism, at least in part a result of the defense’s insistence that she be questioned about her sexual encounters to support its contention that the incident involved only consensual sex. That questioning was conducted at a closed hearing this week.

“My daughter has lived in four states in the past 6 months,” her mother wrote in her letter.

The letter was included as an attachment to a motion filed by John C. Clune, a lawyer for the young woman, who said that his client, under a crime victims’ law passed in Colorado in the early 1990’s, had the right to a “speedy disposition of the case.”

“As each month passes, more dates are scheduled for motions and more death threats are sent to a nineteen-year-old girl who has been forced to leave everyone who has the ability to protect her,” Mr. Clune wrote.

Mr. Bryant has not disputed that he and the woman had sex at a resort hotel near Vail on June 30. Both parties say she went to his room and they kissed. Mr. Bryant says the sex that ensued was consensual; she told the police he became violent, pushed her over a chair and raped her.

Legal experts said that Mr. Clune’s motion underlined just how much the woman had become the center of the case – equal in celebrity, perhaps, even to Mr. Bryant, though he is famous, and she is supposedly cloaked in legal shadow.

“We thought we’d fixed the system,” said Wendy J. Murphy, a former sex-crimes prosecutor, referring to the criminal reforms of the 1970’s, including rape-victim protection laws adopted across the nation that were inspired by the women’s movement. “This case is presenting crystal-clear evidence that those reforms failed.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/26/national/26KOBE.html?hp

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