It's Over: Kobe Criminal Case Dismissed

09/02/2004 at 08:00 AM EDT

It's Over: Kobe Criminal Case Dismissed
Kobe Bryant
Rick Wilking/Reuters
In a stunning development Wednesday, Colorado prosecutors dropped sexual assault charges against Kobe Bryant after the young woman who made the accusations said she could not go on with the criminal case.

Her civil suit against the Los Angeles Lakers superstar will proceed as planned, however.

"This case is dismissed," District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said in an Eagle, Colorado, courtroom, bringing a stunning and abrupt halt to one of the most closely watched criminal cases in the country.

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Neither Bryant, 26, nor his 20-year-old accuser (a concierge who claimed Bryant raped her after she entered his Vail hotel room on June 30, 2003) were in the courtroom at the time of the jurist's announcement, although the woman's parents were. Soon after the bombshell, Bryant issued a statement apologizing to his accuser -- without admitting any wrongdoing.

"Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way that I did," the statement said.

The woman's attorney, John Clune, revealed that police were investigating a rape crisis counselor who may have been trying to sell information about the woman.

"I had a discussion with the FBI. The counselor was under investigation for conspiracy to sell her counseling file," Clune said.

Legal experts speaking about the case say that the dismissal of the criminal proceedings, just as a trial jury was being selected, paves the way for an eventual large monetary settlement from Bryant to his accuser to close the civil case.

As Bryant concluded in his statement: "I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado."

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