Kobe Bryant is one of the most decorated NBA players of all time: five-time NBA champion, former NBA MVP, a first ballot Hall of Famer. In November 2015, Bryant announced his retirement from the league, and is currently on his farewell tour, where opposing players and fans are cheering and celebrating his 20 years of basketball greatness, one last time.
Though, there was a time when Bryant was booed, and it had nothing to do with basketball.
In 2003, a 19-year old college student accused Bryant of rape in an Eagle, Colorado resort. She alleged that Bryant ignored her pleas to stop, whereas Bryant said that the two engaged in consensual sex. The charges were eventually dropped after the woman refused to testify. Nonetheless, the allegations hurt Bryant’s image, and put many of Bryant’s endorsement deals at risk, including a five-year, $40 million deal with Nike. In reference to the case, CBS Contributor Andrew Cohen identified the “he said-she said contrast” as being the difficult aspect for prosecutors to win rape trials. Since conflicting testimony routinely occurs in these type of cases, it is hard to get a sense on what really happened.
It was the “he-said she said contrast” that negatively impacted the lives of Denzel Murray, Shaquell Cooper, Ethan Phillips, Onandi Brown, and Travis Beckford in January 2016. When Beckford arrived to Tilden High School on January 13, his walk to class was interfered with by the NYPD. It was then when Beckford, learned he was the fifth and final suspect for the gang rape of an 18-year-old woman at Osborn playground in Brooklyn, NY. The woman alleged that she was drinking with her father, when Beckford and four of his friends chased the father away at gunpoint, then proceeded to rape her. The Brooklyn park teens voiced otherwise, saying that they had sex with the woman after witnessing her already involved in intercourse with her father.
Due to the media’s coverage of the case, Kenneth Montgomery—the lawyer of Murray—felt justified in asking, “Have we not learned our lessons from the Central Park Five?” In 1989, Kharey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana (a.k.a. the Central Park Five), had their reputations tarnished after being accused of the assault and rape of Trisha Meili. The five teens were coerced into giving false testimonies by the police, confessing to being accomplishes to the rape. Media coverage of the five resulted in current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump to suggest that the five should “suffer” and that their case should result in the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York. The New York Daily News painted the five as a “wolf pack” who savagely beat and raped Meili. It was a story that fueled racial tensions in New York City, and unfortunately, was lucrative to print. In 1990, the teens were found guilty of 1st degree rape, receiving sentences that ranged from 5 to 15 years in prison.
In 2001, convicted serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the rape of Meili, and said that he was the sole participant in the crime. After DNA evidence confirmed Reyes’ testimony, the convictions of the five were vacated and they were released in 2002. Despite the evidence, NYPD detectives refused to believed that the five were innocent and that they were indeed accomplishes to Reyes. In 2014, the Central Park Five reached a settlement with New York City for $41 million, with each of the five receiving a million dollars for each year they were incarcerated. For many, it was the Central Park Five that exposed how hard it is to lose the stigma of being labeled a rapist. Upon learning about the settlement, Trump referred to the judgement as a “disgrace,” after talking to a NYPD detective that described it as, “the heist of the century.”
Last Wednesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said that as a result of the woman and father providing inconsistent and unreliable stories on what occurred between her and the Brooklyn Park Teens, all charges against them were dropped. The correlation between the Central Park and Brooklyn Park cases became even more clear.
Currently, Sony recording artist Kesha is in a legal battle to be released from her recording contract under Dr. Luke, who she claims drugged and raped her in 2006. Dr. Luke denies the allegations, and claims that she was like a sister to him. Although Dr. Luke has the legal rights to terminate her contract—Kesha owes him six more albums under Kemosobe Records—as of yet, Luke has decided to keep Kesha legally bound to her deal. Regardless of the financial implications, it has prompted some to wonder: Why would Dr. Luke continue to work with someone who he says has wrongly accused him of a crime that can irreparably harm his career?
It remains to be seen if the image of the Brooklyn Park Teens have been harmed to the extent where they decide to take civil legal action towards their accuser. Last Saturday, Ethan Phillips told the New York Daily News that he and the four other teens have been harassed on social media, to the extent where they have started to receive death threats. Time may repeat itself, and their acts on Osborn playground may forever be vilified. Hopefully, time will go on, and the case will not impact their future. Rape is a heinous crime, and anyone who has been a victim deserves to know that their attacker has been rightfully punished. At the same time, being accused of a crime that one did not commit may not be damaging in the physical sense, but emotionally and reputation-wise, it hurts.
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