The prosecution of Kobe Bryant appeared on the verge of collapse Wednesday night after his accuser threatened to pull out of the criminal case and sue him in civil court instead.

The bombshell dropped two days after a Colorado judge released transcripts of a hearing in which a defense expert claimed the 20-year-old had sex with a mystery man hours after she was allegedly raped.

The woman’s lawyers said lurid details about semen from “Mister X” found on underwear she wore to a rape exam wrecked her chances of getting justice at the trial slated to start Aug. 27.

“I think she and the prosecution will have to meet in the very near future to decide what they want to do,” one of her lawyers, John Clune, told MSNBC.

Her other attorney, Lin Wood, said damage from the transcript and other pretrial disclosures about the woman’s sex life was “irreparable.”

“I’m of the mind that she’s only going to be treated fairly in a civil case where the playing field is leveled and Mr. Bryant’s life will be scrutinized,” Wood said.

Bryant’s camp had no comment, and the Eagle County district attorney’s office gave only a brief, and surprisingly stoic, statement.

“Nothing has changed with our plans of going forward with the prosecution,” spokeswoman Krista Flanningan said.

Technically, prosecutors could try the L.A. Lakers superstar without the accuser’s cooperation, but legal analysts said there’s no chance of that happening.

“It’s over,” said Larry Pozner, a prominent Denver defense lawyer. “The evidence did not look good for the prosecution. The credibility of their complaining witness is at an all-time low.”

Experts agreed that the accuser would have an easier time getting a judgment against the mega-wealthy athlete in civil court than a conviction in criminal court.

Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and cannot compel Bryant to testify. In civil matters, the burden of proof is far lower – a “preponderance” of evidence is required – and the defendant can be forced to take the stand.

The difference between the standards is exemplified by the O.J. Simpson case, in which the football great was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife in criminal court but held liable for her death in civil court.

Still, forgoing prosecution but forging ahead with a lawsuit has its pitfalls for Bryant’s accuser – who strongly denies defense claims she’s after Kobe’s millions.

“The fact that the civil justice system puts accountability into financial terms doesn’t make this young girl a gold digger,” Wood said. “It makes this girl determined to pursue truth.”

The accuser’s doubts about the prosecution were aired against the backdrop of an unconfirmed report that all the parties held talks last week on how to settle the case without a trial.

One scenario called for Bryant to plead to a non-sex charge, such as assault, issue an apology, and pre-empt a civil suit with a secret payoff, the TV show “Celebrity Justice” said.

But Wood and Clune said they want an admission from Bryant that he raped their client – not an apology – or a jury’s verdict.

“One thing . . . that Kobe Bryant should know is that doing nothing, going away is not an option,” Wood said. “Whether this proceeds criminally, civilly or both, justice is going to be had for this young woman.”


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