DENVER – Kobe Bryant (search)'s defense team says the woman accusing him of rape has received nearly $20,000 from a victims' compensation fund in what it calls a rich incentive to pursue a false claim against the NBA star, according to a court transcript released Thursday.
The 20-year-old woman would be ineligible for at least $17,000 of that sum if she lied about the alleged rape, defense attorney Pamela Mackey (search) argued during the June 21 hearing. She said the woman would have to reimburse the state fund if lies were discovered — even more incentive to go forward with the case.
Mackey said the compensation records should be admitted as evidence because they show the accuser had a financial interest in continuing her participation in the case.
"(The accuser) has profited to an enormous amount, $20,000, I would suspect to most people in this county is a lot of money, most of our jurors, and she has done that on the basis of a false allegation and has persisted in that false allegation," she said.
An attorney for the woman, John Clune (search), called Mackey's arguments "nothing more than tabloid accusations which are filled with inaccurate information." He declined to elaborate.
"Although the family greatly appreciates the availability of something like the crime victim compensation fund, the amounts that have been paid out are a small fraction of the financial strain that this case has placed upon both the victim and her parents," Clune said. "Ms. Mackey's suggestion that this girl or her family has profited from this case is obscene."
District Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) released a partial transcript of the closed-door hearing after being pressured by the Colorado Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to settle a First Amendment fight with the media. A transcript of closed hearings on June 21-22 was mistakenly e-mailed to seven media organizations, including The Associated Press. All held off on publishing the contents while they challenged a contempt of court threat from the judge.
Ruckriegle did not release the June 21 transcript in its entirety and no details at all from the June 22 hearing, which focused on the accuser's sexual activities around the time of her encounter with the Los Angeles Lakers star.
A sealed filing in the case also was mistakenly released Wednesday. The order, which included the accuser's name, appeared on a Web site where public filings are posted as a convenience to court staff and the media.
Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined to comment on Mackey's arguments about the victims' fund, but said the accuser remains determined to go forward with the case.
"Her resolve has not changed," she said.
Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, saying he had consensual sex with the woman at the Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.
He returns to Colorado on Friday for one of the final two hearings before his trial begins Aug. 27. The hearing will focus on the use of DNA obtained from Bryant during a hospital exam. Also on the agenda are defense requests to limit the prosecution's use of his tape-recorded statements to authorities and to keep the comments sealed until trial.
Throughout the case, the defense has made various suggestions on why they believe the woman is pursuing the case. They have sought to introduce her medical and mental health history and have accused her of a "scheme" to sleep with Bryant, perhaps as a way to win attention from an ex-boyfriend. The defense has mentioned the compensation fund before, but details of their arguments were not known until Thursday.
The state Victims' Compensation Fund (search) is financed with fees paid by people convicted of crimes. It is used to cover crime victims' medical and mental health treatment, funeral or burial costs and other related needs. State law caps overall compensation to $20,000 for any single victim or victim's dependents.
Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor and visiting professor at the University of Denver law school, said she doesn't believe compensation funds have ever been an incentive for somebody to lie to obtain services.
"If someone were physically injured and required surgery or had to get new glasses or get new locks on their doors, compensation would go to help with that," Steinhauser said. "The fact that her injuries may be more psychological shouldn't make it so that this now gets used against her."