Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Assault case not only challenge for Kobe, wife



The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - They met at a music video shoot. She was an 18-year-old high school student working as a background model. He was 21, living in wealthy Pacific Palisades with a huge NBA contract and millions of dollars in endorsement deals.

Six months later, Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Laine were engaged. A year later, in April 2001, they walked over red rose petals to begin their life together.

Even before the accusations of sexual assault against the Los Angeles Lakers superstar, their marriage had already endured many hurdles.

About a dozen people attended their private wedding ceremony, but the basketball player's parents - former NBA player Joe Bryant and his wife Pam - weren't among them.

Kobe's parents had already moved back East after living with their only son during his first couple years in the NBA. A rift developed because his parents objected to his quick-trigger marriage to Vanessa.

"I had taken matters into my own hands, marrying my wife so young, they didn't know her," Kobe told ABC Sports in June.

After the marriage, his father rarely attended Lakers games, and the two reportedly didn't speak to each other for nearly two years.

"Twenty years from now, when his own child grows up, he'll understand what I'm doing," Joe Bryant told the Los Angeles Times in an interview in April.

Vanessa's mother, Sofia Laine, also had misgivings.

"Although I was happy for Vanessa, particularly since Kobe is a very kind and respectful young man, their relationship caused a great deal of stress for me," she said in court documents filed in her divorce case.

Before they married, court documents show Vanessa's family life was already in turmoil. Her mother and stepfather filed for bankruptcy in 2000, and Vanessa and Kobe helped them out with cash and gifts worth more than $500,000, according to documents filed in the Laines' pending divorce case.

Kobe also paid off a $230,000 mortgage on his in-laws' Garden Grove house, according to the court filings, as well as phone, dental and credit card bills and two car loans.

Then, in July 2002, Sofia Laine filed for divorce, claiming in court documents that husband Stephen Laine was "involved in another relationship." They had been married for 12 years.

About a month before the divorce filing, Sofia Laine, who wasn't working because of debilitating back pain, told the court she was no longer receiving cash gifts from Vanessa and Kobe.

The financial support is at issue because Stephen Laine's filings show he believes he should pay less than standard alimony.

"I never represented to my mother that I would 'take care of her' financially if she stopped working," Vanessa Bryant told the court last September.

Stephen Laine's attorney, Glen Rabenn, said his client would not comment on his stepdaughter, who took his last name in 2000 even though he never adopted her.

"He does not want to offend Vanessa. He loves Vanessa as his own daughter," Rabenn said. And he "thinks the world of Kobe."




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