Media scrum circles rape-case sports star

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The Independent US

Hot on the trail of the latest celebrity crime scandal, the American media will descend today on the tiny town of Eagle, Colorado, when one of the country's top basketball players makes his first court appearance on charges of raping a female employee at a mountain resort hotel.

Kobe Bryant, the 24-year-old star of the Los Angeles Lakers, will not have to do much more than answer "yes" or "no" as the charges are read out and the judge sets a timetable of preliminary hearings pending a trial that might not start until next summer. But the media will be poring over every detail, as they did in the O J Simpson trial, to keep the story rolling through the dog days of summer.

Little is known of the accusations beyond the bald charge, filed last month, that Mr Bryant "unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly inflicted sexual intrusion or sexual penetration".

The victim has not been named, and lawyers on both sides are subject to a gagging order. If convicted, Mr Bryant faces a possible prison sentence of four years to life.

Mr Bryant, who is married with a young child, has admitted having sex with the woman but insists it was consensual. Having publicly apologised for his adultery, he bought his wife a $4m (£2.5m) purple diamond ring. The couple appeared at a sports awards ceremony at the weekend, receiving a standing ovation from fans.