Reluctant Apology

The carefully crafted apology from Kobe Bryant, issued after a dramatic hearing in Eagle, Colo., last week, was key to ending the criminal rape case against him. In it he conceded that, while he still believes his sexual encounter with a hotel desk clerk was consensual, "I now understand how she feels that she did not consent." Friends say Bryant found apologizing difficult. "Kobe fought that tooth-and-nail," a former Laker teammate who spoke recently to Bryant told NEWSWEEK. "He really didn't want to concede anything, but his lawyers and some family members begged him to do whatever to make it go away."

Kobe's apology signaled to many observers that a settlement of the civil lawsuit against him may come soon. Both sides have reason to end the case. The accuser's attorneys have threatened to pose tough questions about what they allege is Bryant's "history of attempting to commit similar acts of violent sexual assault on females he has just met." The defense would dredge up details of the woman's sexual and psychological history. But the terms of a civil settlement--which almost certainly will include lots of cash--may never become public, and the collapse of the criminal case means the full truth about what happened in Bryant's hotel room on June 30, 2003, will never be fully explored.