EAGLE, Colo. – With his accuser's family looking on, Kobe Bryant (search) made his first appearance before the judge who will preside over his sexual assault trial Thursday and put off a formal plea.
The parents of the 19-year-old woman were in the courtroom for the brief procedural hearing, along with two brothers and a cousin, prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said.
It was the first time the family members have attended a court hearing in the case — and the first time they have seen the NBA star in person, she said. The family left the courthouse without speaking with reporters.
During the 12-minute hearing, Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) set a pretrial hearing for Dec. 19 and another for Jan. 23 to settle various motions, including whether records from a rape crisis center should be given to the defense.
Bryant will have to appear at both hearings to show he is complying with conditions of his bond, Flannigan said.
The defense waived Bryant's rights to be advised of the sexual assault charge against him and the penalty he faces if convicted — four years to life in prison and 20 years to life on probation. Bryant's $25,000 bail was left unchanged.
"We have decided to follow the court's usual procedure and not enter a plea as of today," defense attorney Pamela Mackey said. "I fully advised my client of the charge against him and the possible penalty."
Prosecutor Mark Hurlbert (search) also said he plans to ask the judge to bar a defense expert from observing some laboratory tests, but the judge appeared skeptical.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation (search) lab officials allow outside experts to witness tests in which the evidence is destroyed, but are not allowed to do so when samples remain that can be tested later.
"If there is to be any sort of destructive testing, then the case law is clear that the defense needs to have an opportunity to be present and observe," the judge said.
Hurlbert said he was worried about evidence contamination. Bryant's attorneys said nothing during the exchange.
The Los Angeles Lakers (search) guard, who arrived in Colorado after playing a home game Wednesday night, sat quietly as Mackey answered routine questions from the judge about scheduling.
Attorneys on both sides told the judge they expected a trial to last two to three weeks. The judge said his staff would begin looking at potential dates.
Prosecutors and court officials had not expected Bryant to enter a plea until his arraignment, which hasn't been scheduled. After a formal plea, state law requires the trial must be scheduled within six months unless Bryant waives his right to a speedy trial.
Bryant is accused of raping the woman June 30 at a mountain resort near Edwards where she worked and he was a guest. Bryant, 25, says the two had consensual sex.
During the preliminary hearing last month, a sheriff's investigator testified the woman's blood was found on Bryant's T-shirt. The defense suggested the woman was promiscuous and the blood came from previous sexual activity.
Before the hearing began, about a dozen people rallied outside the courthouse in support of Bryant's accuser.
"We are here to remind everyone to treat this sexual assault case as a serious crime that it is rather than as fodder for entertainment," said Robin Finegan, a board member of a victims' assistance group.