Prosecutors in Colorado have charged Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant with sexual assault in connection with an incident at a Colorado resort. Bryant has admitted having sex with a hotel employee, but denies it was rape.
A 19-year-old Colorado woman filed the complaint on July 1, one day after the alleged incident. Bryant had gone to Vail, Colorado to undergo knee surgery. Investigators reviewed the physical evidence, conducted interviews and met with Prosecutor Mark Hurlbert's office before issuing a warrant.
Mr. Hurlbert made the announcement Friday afternoon at a news conference in Eagle, Colorado.
"After much deliberation, charges were filed against Kobe Bean Bryant of Newport Beach, California," he said. "The defendant was charged with one count of sexual assault, a class three felony."
A court date has been set for August 6. Kobe Bryant could face between four years to life in prison for the felony charges. Mr. Hurlbert said that the decision to charge Bryant was a difficult one.
"This decision came only after reviewing all the evidence, after reviewing the relevant statutes and reviewing the relevant case law and after conferring with prosecutors from around the state," he explained. "Then and only then did I make my decision."
Bryant released a statement saying that he did not assault the woman and that he will fight against the accusations with all his strength. He is a five-time NBA All Star who helped lead the Lakers to three consecutive championships between 2000 and 2002. Eventual champion San Antonio knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs this year.