I think I've written about this before, but why was Kobe ever charged in a case like this in the first place? Let's face it, clearly the girl went to his room willingly, probably with the intent of doing something sexual (why else would she go up there, for an autograph?). She first told the police that she never told him no, only to later mention that she did say no. When the police first spoke with her they never noticed the tiny mark on her cheek that they noticed the next day. They had evidence that she had been with at least one other man in the time around the incident, perhaps afterwards (let's face it, someone is not going to have sex with someone shortly after being raped unless they're really twisted, at least that would be my impression being a guy). Finally, they knew about her history of mental problems, including attempted suicides.
Now, people contend that celebrities get favorable treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system, and frequently that's the case. However, I've also found that excessive publicity about a case harms a defendant, and that can be the case for celebrities as well. Sure, OJ capitalized on his celebrity to get an NG, but I would bet that Michael Jackson's celebrity is probably hurting him right now, as everyone knows about him, and it's far easier to slime someone in the press when they are already frequently in the news. Also, is there anyone who thinks that the DA would've sought death in the Scott Peterson case had his case not received so much publicity?
In the Kobe case, I think his celebrity harmed him. This was a weak case, no matter how you look at it, from the very start. Yet, the Sheriff took the exceptional step of arresting him so quickly when he didn't have to. He very possibly did that because Kobe was such a big named person. Then, while the DA thought about whether to file the case, I'm sure he had to consider what would happen to the county if they didn't file on Kobe. Kobe would probably have a great wrongful arrest case against the Sheriff. However, his wrongful arrest case would probably go away if the DA files a criminal case on him and a judge determines that there was probable cause to go to trial based on the preliminary hearing. Therefore, tiny Eagle County could face a ruinous lawsuit from Kobe that could be preveted just by filing on him. I think from that day forward, the DA was thinking about how he could get out of this case cleanly. Certainly the prelim showed how weak the case was, and it just never got any stronger from then on.
Contrary to the press reports, the rulings of the judge against the DA were no big surprise. Consider:
1) The DA had problems with the DNA that they originally sought and tested. They caused all of the problems with the DNA and chain of custody, almost looking like they were throwing the case right there. There's no chance a judge is going to keep out DNA at the behest of the DA when it was tested by the DA's crime lab at the DA's request. This is hardly a surprising blow.
2) Rape Shield - The judge never ruled that rape shield was unconstitutional, or that the defense was not restricted by rape shield. Rape shield has a specific exception to allow for evidence of other sexual partners to explain injuries. The DA sought to bring evidence that the girl had injuries, and that they were caused by Kobe. It's simply black letter law that Kobe's defense is allowed to rebut that evidence with proof of other sexual partners. How the press can call this some kind of a surprising victory for the defense is beyond me. That was clearly going to be admitted from day one.
3) Complaining wit's mental problems - The judge actually kept most of this out, which I think was an error. Let's face it, the fact that someone accusing you of misreading their response to your sexual advances has mental problems should obviously be admitted. This is a charge of interpretation of words, body language and things of the like. She claims she didn't want to have sex, he claims she did. If he had to understand what she was thinking, feeling and saying when this happens, shouldn't the fact that she expresses herself in such bizarre manners in other cases be admitted here? The judge indicated he would keep much of that out. This, I think, was a big victory for the prosecution.
In closing, I think that this case was never likely to go to trial, it was just not a strong case, and the fact that it was brought at all was in many respects likely a factor of Kobe's celebrity and money, at the very least, because the complaining witness may have seen dollar signs from the start. The fact that it didn't go to trial did not surprise me in the slightest.