Settlement Possible in Kobe Bryant Case

Monday, February 28th 2005, 2:01 pm

By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Attorneys in the sexual assault lawsuit against Kobe Bryant said Monday a long-awaited deposition by the NBA star was postponed, prompting speculation a settlement is in the works.

Bryant was to face a full day of questioning on Friday by L. Lin Wood and John Clune, attorneys for Bryant's 20-year-old accuser, but Wood said the session was called off after his team arrived in Orange County, Calif., for the meeting.

The deposition _ where attorneys question a party to a lawsuit before trial, without a judge present _ would have been the first time Bryant had spoken under oath about what happened.

Wood declined further comment. Clune and Bryant's lead attorney Pamela Mackey did not immediately return calls.

``It sounds like somebody's talking numbers,'' said veteran plaintiff's attorney Mel Hewitt of Atlanta. ``We do that in a lot of cases. We'll push for the deposition knowing they don't want to talk to us and hopefully that makes somebody want to drag their checkbook out.''

He said the deposition might also have been postponed for a simpler reason, such as an illness.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch previously refused to bar the woman's lawyers from asking Bryant about his sexual history. He said he would handle any objections to the questions afterward.

Denver attorney Dan Recht said that ruling may help put pressure on Bryant to settle.

``In this case, because of the publicity value of it all, it does in fact apply pressure to the defendant to consider serious negotiations,'' Recht said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for mental injuries, humiliation and public scorn the woman said she has suffered since her June 2003 encounter with Bryant at the Vail-area resort where she worked.

The woman, now married and pregnant, sued Bryant in Denver federal court last summer, three weeks before the criminal case against him in Eagle County collapsed when she decided she could not take part in a trial.

Bryant, a married father of one, issued an apology but insisted the sex was consensual.

Matsch has said he hoped the trial could begin this summer.

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