April 6, 2005 -- A key witness in the Kobe Bryant rape case is speaking out for the first time about what the basketball star's accuser told him right after the alleged attack, saying "I believe her" account of what happened that night and "this thing should have went to trial."
Bob Pietrack was the bellman on duty at the Cordillera Lodge and Spa, near Vail, Colo., when the Los Angeles Laker checked in on June 30, 2003. One of Pietrack's co-workers, a 19-year-old front desk clerk, said Bryant raped her that night after she gave him a tour of the hotel. Bryant said the two had sex but claims it was consensual.
In police tapes made a day after the attack, he is heard telling detectives: "She must want money or something, I'm telling you man, I swear on my life, I did not -- I did not sexually assault her in no kind of way whatsoever."
Bryant was charged with one count of sexual assault but prosecutors dropped the case after the alleged victim said she was too traumatized to go forward. The woman filed a civil suit against Bryant, which was settled for an undisclosed sum last month -- despite her lawyers' insistence that her motives were not financial. The terms were not disclosed, but both parties agreed not to talk about the case. Pietrack is no longer bound by the court's gag order.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Cynthia McFadden, Pietrack wouldn't say whether he thinks the basketball star got away with a crime -- but he says he is disappointed in the way it ended.
"I don't want to point the finger, and look at another man and point at him and say, 'You are a rapist," Pietrack told McFadden in the interview, airing Thursday night on "Primetime Live."
But Pietrack added: "This thing should have went to trial, and should have been decided by 12 jurors, and whatever verdict they would have came back with would have sufficed."
Pietrack is now an advocate for sexual assault victims, and says he had chosen to come forward in April in recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
In his interview with McFadden, Pietrack recounted his version of what happened the night of the alleged attack. He says the accuser was not a Bryant fan and had no idea who he was before that night.
"When we learned he was checking in, she asked me who he was. And I talked to her about commercials that Kobe Bryant had been in," he said.
But Pietrack, a former star college basketball athlete, says he was excited that Bryant was going to visit -- "which, I think, led her to be excited," he said.
When their shift ended, Pietrack met the woman in the parking lot to go home. What she told him there had the potential to destroy the career of one of basketball's greatest players.
"She just grabs my arm. And I kinda flinched. And she said, 'He choked me.' And I said, 'Who choked you?' She said, 'He choked me.' And I said, 'Kobe Bryant, choked you?'
"And she just shook her head and tears started to pour down her face. She was shaking," he said.
'Forced Sex on Me'
Pietrack said he gave her a hug. "I could tell, she was pretty shook up," he said.
He described her condition as "a real scared, pale, frightened, terrified, shaking, with just a stream of tears. There wasn't a full-fledged crying, sobbing-type situation."
Pietrack said, "It was looking into the eyes of someone that was not there. It was the scariest thing I had been through."
He said the young woman told him that Bryant had choked her when she tried to leave his hotel room. Pietrack also said the woman said she and Bryant had been kissing, and that it was consensual.
But when he asked her if anything else happened, he said, "That's when she started to cry. And it was obvious then, that something happened that was not good."
He says the woman told him Bryant "forced sex on me." He said she did not use the word "rape."
Pietrack says he has no doubt that she was telling him the truth.
"I believe what she told me to be the truth," he said. "Anybody that was in my position -- that was there, that saw her -- would have believed the same thing."
As the star witness in the Bryant case, Pietrack says he was just trying to tell the truth -- but he soon found his personal life under attack.
The accuser had told police she had sex with him just 48 hours before the alleged rape.
Pietrack did not confirm or deny the relationship to McFadden but insisted he was truthful to police. "I told them that she was not my girlfriend," he said.
He added, "It was a bad question it has nothing to do with what happened in the room June 30."
Pietrack defended his credibility as a witness: "The defense tried and tried to find something to discredit me. They had the best people working on it, and they just couldn't."
The defense alleged that the woman had sex with another man a day after the encounter with Bryant, but Pietrack said he had no reason to believe them.
"I can say that she has told me she didn't, and so I'll have to believe her. I don't think she did," he said. The woman has publicly denied the defense allegations through her lawyers.
Asked if the woman showed poor judgment by going to the basketball star's room alone at night, Pietrack said he didn't think that mattered.
"If there [are] people that really feel that way that are out there, they are uneducated," he said.
"Just because, you kiss someone -- regardless of it's two seconds, two minutes or five minutes, it doesn't make a difference. It doesn't mean that you can have sex with that person without their consent."