July 17, 2003 - Posted at: 4:04 p.m. CDT
EAGLE, Colo. -- NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant declared that he is innocent of a felony charge of sexual assault in Colorado.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors in Colorado filed charges against Bryant in connection with an alleged sexual assault.
The 24-year-old Bryant faces four years to life in prison if convicted on the single felony count, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told reporters during a news conference.
The woman worked the front desk at the resort where Bryant was staying.
"After much deliberation charges were filed against Kobe Bryant. He was charged with one count of sexual assault," Hulbert said.
Bryant has said he is innocent. His attorney, Pamela Mackey, scheduled a Friday evening news conference in Los Angeles.
"I am innocent of the charges filed today," Bryant said in the statement. "I did not assault the woman who is accusing me. I made the mistake of adultery. I have to answer to my wife and my God for my actions that night and I pray that both will forgive me.
"Nothing that happened June 30th was against the will of the woman who now falsely accuses me. These false allegations have hurt my family. I will fight against these allegations with all my strength. My wife is the strongest person I know. She is willing to stand by me despite my mistake. That means everything to me.
"I have so much to live for. And by that I do not mean the contracts, or the money, or the fame. I mean my family. I will fight for them. I appreciate all those who have supported me. Thank you for believing in me. My family and I are going to need your support and prayers now more than ever,'' Bryant said.
Vanessa Bryant also released the following statement Friday:
"I know that my husband has made a mistake -- the mistake of adultery. He and I will have to deal with that within our marriage, and we will do so. He is not a criminal. I know that he did not commit a crime, he did not assault anyone. He is a loving and kind husband and father. I believe in his innocence. Because I know him to be innocent, I will stand by him and we will face this together. I will give him all the strength and support he needs to face these false accusations. I will not let him face these accusations alone. I know Kobe better than anyone. The great person you see on the court and in the public is a far greater person off the court.''
Bryant's attorney, Pamela Mackey, held a news conference for later Friday afternoon at Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, where Bryant denied the charge he faces, fighting back tears at a news conference in Los Angeles and saying he was guilty only of adultery.
"I didn't force her to do anything against her will. I'm innocent," he said, sitting next to his wife, Vanessa. "I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making a mistake of adultery."
Hurlbert said Bryant forced the victim into "submission" through physical force but refused to disclose other details.
Hurlbert refused to talk about the details of the case.
He said he reviewed all evidence during the last two weeks and consulted prosecutors around the state before making his decision.
"This did not come easily," he said.
Bryant, free on $25,000 bail, must return to court in Eagle on Aug. 6 for an advisement hearing.
The case has riveted the sports world for nearly two weeks because it involves one of the NBA's brightest and most magnetic young stars. The recently married father of a baby girl has also used his wholesome image to land multimillion-dollar endorsement deals.
Documents in the case, including the arrest warrant, have been sealed.
Authorities have said the Los Angeles Lakers star assaulted the woman June 30 at the gated Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in nearby Edwards. He was in Colorado for knee surgery at a Vail clinic, and was booked at the lodge from June 30 to July 2.
Eagle County sheriff's deputies took Bryant to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs for tests early July 2, later letting him leave in a taxi with his bodyguards.
The woman also underwent tests, and Hurlbert has said he needed information from the state crime lab before making his decision.
Bryant surrendered to authorities July 4 and was released an hour later after posting $25,000 bond. The sheriff refused to release Bryant's booking photo for days.
The arrest was announced July 6, prompting a firestorm of media attention on this small mountain town 100 miles west of Denver. Reporters swamped the cul-de-sac where the woman lives with her parents, but she has said nothing publicly. Her family has consulted an attorney.
The news stunned basketball fans: Bryant, a five-time All-Star who has already won three titles with the Lakers, is by most accounts a quiet man who prefers dinner with a few friends to joining teammates for a night on the town.
Sports marketing experts say the case will be a permanent blow to Bryant's image, and could cost him millions in lost endorsements.
Bryant entered the NBA in 1996 at age 18, straight out of high school. He has drawn comparisons to the league's greatest players as he has helped Los Angeles win consecutive titles from 2000-02.
Along with his determination, Bryant has also shown class, something many fans feel are missing from other NBA stars. He wept when the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs by San Antonio in May, and he wore his hospital ID bracelet in a game the day after his daughter was born.
He married Vanessa Laine in April 2001. The two met on the set of a music video where Laine was working and got engaged while she was still in high school. Vanessa gave birth to their first child, Natalia Diamante Bryant, in January.