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Bryant, accuser settle lawsuit in assault case

Both parties satisfied with the agreement, defense lawyers say

DENVER -- Kobe Bryant and the 20-year-old woman who accused him of rape nearly two years ago settled her civil lawsuit against him yesterday, ending a sordid case that tarnished one of the NBA's brightest young stars.

Terms were not released. A statement faxed to the Associated Press by Bryant's attorneys said only that the matter had been resolved ''to the satisfaction of both parties."

''The parties and their attorneys have agreed that no further comments about the matter can or will be made," the statement said. A motion for dismissal stipulating that the case can never be refiled was filed simultaneously in Denver federal court.

A Los Angeles Lakers spokeswoman said Bryant had declined comment on the settlement. Bryant was in Boston for a game against the Celtics and was unavailable before the game began.

The agreement probably spells out financial penalties for revealing any details, said Steve Cron, a Los Angeles attorney familiar with celebrity cases.

''It's in both parties' interests to have this remain confidential," he said. ''That's one of the incentives for them to settle: He didn't have to do a deposition, the lurid details wouldn't be posted on some website. She didn't have to face the rigors of having a deposition by his lawyers and she'll gain some privacy as well."

The lawsuit, filed three weeks before the criminal case against the NBA star collapsed last summer, sought unspecified damages for mental injuries, public scorn and humiliation the woman said she has suffered since their June 2003 encounter at the Vail-area hotel where she worked. The woman, now pregnant and married, has not commented publicly on the case.

Bryant, a 27-year-old married father of one, has apologized for his ''behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered," while insisting the sex was consensual. He has never been questioned under oath about what happened in his hotel room the night before he had knee surgery at a Vail clinic.

Shortly after jury selection began in the criminal case, prosecutors in Eagle County dropped the single felony sexual assault count after the woman told them she could not take part in a trial. Prosecutors said they were confident they could win a conviction, but only with her cooperation.

The lawsuit was similar to the criminal case, accusing Bryant of flirting with the woman during a tour of the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera. After the two ended up in his room, they began to kiss and Bryant became more aggressive, finally holding her by the throat while he raped her, the lawsuit said.

Like the criminal case, the civil case ultimately would have rested on the testimony of a woman Bryant's attorneys accused of being a promiscuous, attention-seeking liar. Among other things, the defense suggested she had sex with someone after leaving Bryant and before she contacted authorities -- a claim her attorneys hotly contested.

Speculation that a settlement was close increased Monday after L. Lin Wood, one of the woman's attorneys, said Bryant's long-awaited deposition three days earlier had been called off.

Colorado law makes it difficult for plaintiffs in civil cases to win more than about $733,000. Wood has said that amount was too low to fairly compensate the woman for the harm she claimed to have suffered, but dropped the idea of filing suit in California.

Sports marketers have estimated Bryant lost $4 million to $6 million in endorsement contracts after his arrest. Cron said there was no way to accurately guess how much Bryant had agreed to pay.

''If I were his lawyer, you obviously want to do the best you can for him, but there's an awful lot of value in just ending this, saying write a check, go home, have a good night's sleep and put it behind you," Cron said.

Cynthia Stone, spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said she hopes the settlement brings some sense of justice and closure for the woman, who moved from state to state to avoid media scrutiny last year.

''The defense team in the criminal case managed to get reams of paper filled with rumor and innuendo about this young woman's prior sexual history out into the public," Stone said.

As a result, victims' advocates are lobbying for a bill intended to tighten Colorado's ''rape shield" law. The bill would clarify that nothing about an alleged victim's sexual history would be made public unless the judge determines it is relevant to the case.

Bryant signed a seven-year, $136 million contract with the Lakers last year and he had a five-year, $45 million deal with Nike signed days before the allegations surfaced. He has not appeared in the shoe maker's commercials since then. His contract with Coca-Cola expires this year, and McDonald's and Nutella did not renew their deals with Bryant after his arrest.

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