EAGLE, Colo. - The Kobe Bryant case collapsed Wednesday as prosecutors said they had no choice but to drop the sexual assault charge against the NBA star because the alleged victim could no longer participate.
With the parents of the 20-year-old accuser looking on, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle threw out the case under a deal that means no charges will be refiled.
"The people have filed a motion to dismiss this case based on the fact the sole victim at this time is unable to go forward," District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told the judge.
Bryant still faces a federal civil lawsuit filed by the accuser that seeks unspecified damages.
Lawyer for both sides met with Ruckriegle on Wednesday.
Prosecutors had agreed to dismiss sexual assault charges against Bryant, but it was unclear whether or not the prosecution was asking for the right to bring charges against Bryant at a later date.
According to NBC News, the prosecutors will move to dismiss the case "without prejudice", which means they can refile the case later.
ABC, however, reported that the prosecution wanted the case to be dismissed "with prejudice", meaning it could never be brought to court again. According to the ABC report, the alleged victim was no longer willing to testify.
The Associated Press reported that the case will be dropped as early as Thursday.
"The criminal case will go away," Wood told The Post.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert scheduled a late afternoon news conference, but his spokeswoman declined to comment before that, as did attorneys for the 20-year-old accuser. Defense attorneys did not return calls seeking comment.
L. Lin Wood, an attorney handling the accuser's federal civil lawsuit against Bryant, said that case was intact Wednesday.
"There has been no settlement of the civil lawsuit and there have been no discussions concerning a settlement," he said. He declined to comment when asked about the criminal case.
Reports that the prosecution was dropping the case surfaced as jury selection began to wrap up. Attorneys and District Judge Terry Ruckriegle had hoped to seat a 12-member jury this week, with opening statements coming next Tuesday.
Defense attorneys this week asked the judge to dismiss the assault charge, saying prosecutors had refused to turn over details that could suggest Bryant is innocent. Court rules require prosecutors and defense attorneys to exchange evidence and witness opinions before trial, a process called discovery.
In a motion made public Wednesday, defense attorneys said a forensics expert whom prosecutors had planned to call as a witness had information that "undermined the accuser's allegations and the prosecution's case, and corroborated Mr. Bryant's defense on a central issue — the cause and significance of the accuser's alleged injuries."
The filing said those opinions were not disclosed to the defense until they contacted the expert Friday, despite repeated requests to prosecutors for the information. Prosecutors have said they have turned over all information they were required to.
"A person's life and liberty are at stake," the defense attorneys wrote. "The game of hide-the-ball, find-it-if-you-can discovery is intolerable. This court must vindicate Mr. Bryant's constitutional rights and impose meaningful sanctions against the prosecution."
The motion does not identify the expert, but prosecutors this spring had said they planned to call former New York City medical examiner Michael Baden to testify about the woman's injuries.
Hurlbert had said during a July 19 hearing he had decided against using Baden. He did not elaborate.
The defense motion was first reported by ABC News, which cited unidentified sources who said Baden told prosecutors the woman's injuries could have been caused by consensual sex. Baden did not return messages Wednesday.
The defense has also argued that injuries found on the woman could have been caused by sex with someone else in the time surrounding her encounter with Bryant, including someone afterward and before she went to a hospital. The woman's attorneys have denied that claim.
Defense attorneys asked the judge to either dismiss the case or bar prosecutors from introducing any expert testimony relating to the accuser's injuries. The judge gave prosecutors until Tuesday to respond.