Basketball ace Kobe Bryant's lawyers, prosecutors and his rape accuser's lawyer have reportedly been secretly discussing a plea bargain to end the case.

Sources close to the parties in the case tell American TV show CELEBRITY Justice that discussions have focused on the LOS ANGELES LAKERS star pleading guilty to a "non-sex crime".

In such a case, Bryant would plead to misdemeanour such as third degree assault.

There are also reported negotiations taking place in a possible civil case, where the parties discussed Bryant writing a letter of apology to his accuser - and giving her a confidential financial settlement.

According to the show's reporters, the prosecution and defence both approached to judge to see if he would allow a "non-sex crime" plea and the judge said he was open to it. But a spokesperson for the Eagle County, Colorado, District Attorney's office - where the alleged rape is said to have taken place - says, "We are still moving forward with the prosecution of this case. Nothing has changed."

Bryant - whose trial is due to start on 27 August (04) - has pleaded innocent to sexually assaulting the 19-year-old woman in his Colorado hotel room.

05/08/2004 02:59