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Kobe Bryant must stand trial, judge rules

If convicted, he faces maximum sentence of life in prison

Bryant fielded questions from reporters on Monday afternoon.

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CNN's Gary Tuchman on a Colorado judge's ruling that NBA superstar Kobe Bryant must stand trial on a charge of felony sexual assault.
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Eagle County D.A. Mark Hurlbert comments on the preliminary hearing.
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CNN's Gary Tuchman reports on the case against Kobe Bryant.
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Kobe Bryant
Sex Crimes

EAGLE, Colorado (CNN) -- NBA superstar Kobe Bryant must stand trial on a charge of felony sexual assault on 19-year-old woman, a Colorado judge announced Monday.

"The court finds that the evidence, taken in a light most favorable to the prosecution, is sufficient to 'induce a reasonable belief' that defendant committed sexual assault as charged," Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett wrote in his nine-page ruling.

If convicted of one count of sexual assault, Bryant could face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $750,000. Bryant denies the charge, saying it was consensual sex -- not rape.

Gannett will next set a date for an arraignment, where the accused Los Angeles Laker guard must enter a plea, and then set a trial date. The case is not expected to go to trial until next spring.

Bryant, who practiced with the Los Angeles Lakers Monday, said shortly before the ruling: "I've pretty much done all I can here and, you know, God will carry me the rest of the way, so I'm pretty comfortable with that."

Bryant, 25, is accused of sexually assaulting the woman on June 30. The alleged victim was a clerk at a mountain lodge in Edwards, west of the Vail ski resort, where Bryant was a guest.

During last week's preliminary hearing, Bryant's lawyers raised questions about the alleged victim's sexual history.

Defense lawyers argued in court papers that they have "compelling evidence" of Bryant's innocence, and spent about two hours Wednesday cross-examining a detective who investigated the case.

The two-day preliminary hearing was interrupted after Bryant's lawyer, Pamela Mackey, suggested the alleged victim's injuries were consistent with having sex with three men in three days.

The investigator, Doug Winters, an Eagle County sheriff's detective, testified the underwear the woman wore to a hospital on the day she went to police contained semen and pubic hair that came from someone other than Bryant.

He said the alleged victim told him she had sex with a different man three days before the day she alleges Bryant raped her.

In court papers filed last week, his office accused Mackey of trying to smear the alleged victim by making a "conscious misrepresentation of the evidence."

But defense lawyers said evidence "from the prosecution's own laboratory" has been submitted in a sealed motion that could clear the NBA All-Star.

"She is not worthy of your belief," defense attorney Pamela Mackey told the judge at the end of last week's pretrial hearing referring to Bryant's accuser. She also called the prosecution's evidence "an extremely thin case based almost entirely on hearsay."

In his Monday ruling, the judge said: "Although defendant presented evidence attacking the credibility of the alleged victim, the court cannot conclude that the hearsay statements of the alleged victim should be disregarded."

In testimony during the preliminary hearing last week, Winters said none of Bryant's clothes had any rips or tears, and investigators found no marks on Bryant that would indicate someone had resisted a sexual assault. He also testified that blood from the woman was found on Bryant's T-shirt. But Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said the woman had a bruise on her jaw from Bryant's thumb.

Detective: Bryant and accuser flirted

Winters said the woman told him that she and Bryant flirted when they first met and engaged in mutual kissing later, but that he wouldn't stop when she tried to refuse his attempts to go further.

The detective said the woman reported that she was scared and that Bryant grabbed her with both hands around her neck.

He then forced her over a chair, raped her despite her protests, and then told her repeatedly not to tell anyone about it, Winters said the woman told authorities.

At one point in the pre-trial audience, the defense introduced evidence about a letter from a co-worker of the alleged victim, who said in a written statement that the woman "did not look or sound like there had been any problem" when she returned to her post as a concierge at the hotel.

But a bellhop who said he encountered the woman shortly after the alleged attack told police Bryant's accuser was so distraught he followed her home in his own car to make sure she was fine.

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