Bryant maintains innocence

Lakers star says he's 'disgusted' with himself

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Sitting not far from the court where everything comes so naturally to him, Kobe Bryant found it tough just to speak.

After waiting several seconds to gather himself, the Los Angeles Lakers' guard choked back tears and his voice quivered.

"I'm innocent," Bryant said Friday at a news conference four hours after a Colorado prosecutor said he was charging the All-Star with one count of felony sexual assault on a 19-year-old woman.


"I didn't force her to do anything against her will. I'm innocent. I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making a mistake of adultery," Bryant said.

He was joined by his wife of two years, Vanessa, and lawyers.

"I love my wife with all my heart. She's my backbone," Bryant said, before turning to address her directly: "You're a blessing, you're a piece of my heart, the air I breathe, and you're the strongest person I know, and I'm so sorry for having to put you through this, putting my family through this."

Bryant, free on $25,000 bail, must return to court in Eagle, Colo., on Aug. 6 for a hearing. If convicted, he would face four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.

"Naturally, we're disappointed with today's announcement," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "While there are many questions concerning this issue, we will wait for time and the judicial process to answer them. In the meantime, we will continue to offer our support to Kobe and his family."

Bryant, 24, paired with Shaquille O'Neal to help the Lakers win three NBA titles and finished second in the league in scoring last season.

Articulate and charismatic, Bryant also parlayed his basketball success into millions of dollars in endorsement deals.

"I'm a human being, I'm a man like everybody else. I mourn, I cry, just like everybody else, and I sit here before you guys embarrassed and ashamed for committing adultery," Bryant said. "And you know if I could go through the feeling of -- if I could just turn back the hands of time -- and I love my wife so much."


Lawyer Pamela Mackey said Bryant will plead not guilty and his defense will be that the sexual encounter at a resort in Colorado was "between two consenting adults."

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