— Kobe Bryant made his first court appearance in his sexual assault case today, as ABCNEWS was told that examiners found evidence the NBA superstar's accuser had "vaginal tearing."
Bryant, 24, is accused of sexual assault for allegedly raping a 19-year-old woman who worked at an exclusive resort where he stayed while he was in Colorado for knee surgery in late June. The Los Angeles Lakers guard, who is married and has an infant daughter, has admitted committing adultery with the woman but insists the sex was consensual.
Today, Bryant, dressed in a beige suit, was greeted by a few cheers as he entered the front of the Eagle County Courthouse for the procedural hearing Judge Frederick Gannett ordered him to attend. Bryant's wife, Vanessa, was not with him.
Pamela Mackey, Bryant's attorney, waived the formal advisement of the sexual assault charge he faces. Bryant sat quietly with his hands folded during the hearing, which lasted approximately seven minutes. He was not required to — and did not — enter a plea.
Gannett scheduled a preliminary hearing for Oct. 9. Asked whether he objected to the scheduling of the hearing, Bryant said, "No, sir."
The judge also appointed a special investigator to look into leaks to the media about the case. Gannett had imposed a gag order that prevents investigators and attorneys on both sides from talking to the media, but said today that he was concerned about some recent reports and the massive attention the case had generated.
In a meeting before today's hearing, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert suggested to Gannett that an independent special investigator be appointed to look into the source of the leaks. Bryant's attorneys agreed. The judge appointed an investigator outside Eagle County, Pitkin County County Sheriff Bob Braudis, to conduct the probe.
Bryant was cheered again as he and his lawyer left the courthouse and entered his waiting sport utility vehicle.
Sources: Woman Says She Tried to Leave Room
Bryant's appearance today came as ABCNEWS was told examiners found evidence that the alleged victim had vaginal tearing. Prosecutors could argue that this is not consistent with consensual sex, legal analysts say. But the defense could rebut this in several ways, including that vaginal tearing could be sustained during consensual sex, or was not incurred during sex with Bryant.
Several sources familiar with the case also told ABCNEWS the accuser has alleged that she tried to leave Bryant's hotel room and he blocked the door. The sources said that the sheriff's original arrest warrant included a misdemeanor claim of false imprisonment.
The prosecutor did not ultimately include a false imprisonment claim in the charging document. One reason may be that prosecutors prefer not to give the jury the option of finding guilt on a lesser offense as a way of compromising.
That does not mean that prosecutors cannot include the allegation at trial.
Despite the cheers outside the courthouse, Bryant's public relations struggle will continue after the hearing, as he faces the question of how to appear innocent without appearing callous or unconcerned, or worse — guilty.