Lakers’ Bryant accused of sexual assault

DENVER: Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant (pic) has surrendered to police in Colorado after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her at a mountain resort, authorities said on Sunday. 

Bryant, 24, was released after turning himself in and posting a US$25,000 bond on Friday, a statement issued by the Eagle County Sheriff's office said. 

The woman who accused Bryant of sexual misconduct went to deputies last Tuesday and told them that the alleged incident had occurred in the mountain town of Edwards the previous night. 

“Upon review of interviews and physical evidence, investigators met with the District Attorney’s office and concluded they had enough evidence to charge Kobe Bryant with felony sexual assault,” the police statement said. 

Prosecutors have not filed charges in the case and could not be reached for comment on Sunday. A judge has ordered the case sealed. 

Bryant, who was the NBA’s second-leading scorer last season, had been staying at a spa in Edwards with five bodyguards while receiving treatment for an injured shoulder, Los Angeles television station KTLA reported. 

The station reported that the woman who accused Bryant of the sexual misconduct was a 19-year-old employee of the lodge near the ski resort of Vail where he had been staying. 

The accusations stunned Laker fans and the team. 

“These allegations are completely out of character of the Kobe Bryant we know,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. 

“For the seven years he’s been with us, he has been one of the finest young men we’ve known and a wonderful asset to both our team and our community.” “However, since this is a legal matter being handled by the authorities in Colorado, we must refrain from further comment at this time.” 

Paired with All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships between 2000 and 2002. 

The team, which faltered last season and was knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual NBA-champion San Antonio Spurs, is in the process of rebuilding around its two best players. 

Bryant, famed as a tough competitor, has been a favorite with corporate America, with endorsement deals for Sprite, McDonald’s Corp.MCD.N> and Nike Inc. NKE.N> 

Turning professional straight out of high school, Bryant joined the Lakers in the 1996-97 season and the following year was the youngest player ever, at the age of 19, to be selected to an All-Star team. 

Bryant has been an All-Star ever since and was named Most Valuable Player in the 2002 Game. 

Last season, Bryant averaged a career-best 30 points while playing in all 82 games for the Lakers. He collected 40 or more points in nine straight games in February. 

Bryant underwent shoulder surgery in New York on June 12 but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in October. Bryant has been married to Vanessa Laine since April 2001. The couple had their first child, Natalia Diamante Bryant, in January. – Reuters 

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