LOS ANGELES: Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant was charged on Friday with sexually assaulting a former high school cheerleader at a mountain resort where she worked.
Bryant made a surprise public appearance at a news conference here where he publicly apologized and begged for forgiveness from his young wife Vanessa just hours after the charges were filed.
He also denied sexually assaulting the teenager but admitted he had cheated on his wife, saying he had consensual sex with the woman.
The National Basketball Association star guard and his lawyers announced they would plead not guilty and vowed to fight the allegations which could net Bryant a life prison sentence.
The 24-year-old American was charged with one count of forcible sexual penetration or intrusion, Colorado District Attorney Mark Hurlbert announced at a news conference.
News of the charge sent shockwaves through the American sports world as Bryant's clean-cut image has made him the darling of fans and led to endorsement deals with corporate giants like Nike worth US$10mil a year.
Hurlbert said the charges brought in Eagle County, Colorado, near the ski resort of Vail were serious and included use of physical force.
Bryant could face a jail term of between four years to life imprisonment or probation of between 20 years and life if convicted, said Hurlbert. The fine could range from US$3,000-750,000.
Bryant turned himself in to authorities on July 4.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Bryant checked into the hotel on June 30 using the alias Javier Rodriguez and was given a room on the first floor at the end of the hall. AFP