Vickie Bane and Stephen M. Silverman
May 11, 2004 09:00 AM

As the parents of his accuser looked on, Kobe Bryant pleaded not guilty in a Colorado courtroom on Tuesday to charges of felonious sexual assault on a 19-year-old female concierge at a Vail-area resort last year, reports PEOPLE.

Judge W. Terry Ruckriegle asked the 25-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star — who was wearing a dark gray suit and standing between his attorneys Hal Haddon and Pamela Mackey — if he understood the charges facing him.

Bryant, speaking for the first time in court, replied: “Yes, sir.”

“How do you plead?” asked the jurist.

“Not guilty,” said Bryant.

Bryant’s next court date is May 27, and a trial date will be set, probably for sometime in late August at the earliest. If found guilty of the charges (Bryant maintains that sex with the woman was consensual), he could be sentenced from four years to life in prison.

After the hearing, court adjourned for the week and Bryant went to the airport for a trip back to Los Angeles for Tuesday’s playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs, in which he led his team to a 98-90 victory by scoring 42 points.

On Monday in court, attorneys argued whether the woman’s sexual and mental history is something jurors will hear about during the trial. Bryant’s accuser also made a surprise appearance in court, slipping into the building through a fire exit and spending about two hours listening to the proceedings.

Court spokeswoman Karen Salaz said she was told the woman was there to observe, and that her appearance was coordinated so she would not hear the testimony of other witnesses, the Associated Press reports.

The visit marked only the second time the accuser had appeared in the same room as Bryant since the case began. The previous occasion was on March 24, when she was questioned for more than three hours.

It wasn’t clear what portion of the hearing she observed on Monday. By the end of the day, attorneys had concluded arguments on the relevance of the woman’s mental health, two purported suicide attempts last spring and any evidence of alcohol or drug use.

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