EAGLE, Colo. – NBA superstar Kobe Bryant (search) will enter a plea in May, nearly 10 months after he was formally charged with sexual assault.
State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) said Wednesday Bryant will enter his plea sometime during a three-day hearing that starts May 10. Under state law, the trial must begin within six months after that, unless Bryant waives his right to a speedy process.
The alleged victim's attorney and mother asked the judge last month to set a trial date soon. They said the 19-year-old woman has been threatened with death and sexual assault, hounded by the media and tracked by defense investigators.
"I think it's very heartening that (her) plea was taken seriously," said Cynthia Stone, spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (search).
"The connotation here is that the system understands how difficult this can be for a victim, and in this instance it's going to try to mitigate some of that," she said.
Both sides told the judge the earliest they could be ready for trial is late August or early September.
"We're ready, willing and able to try it when the court believes it's time," defense attorney Hal Haddon said.
Bryant, 25, is accused of raping the woman last June at a Vail-area resort where she worked. He has said the two had consensual sex.
Bryant was formally charged with felony sexual assault on July 18. He would face four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted.
Ruckriegle said he would have liked to have the Los Angeles Lakers (search) star enter a plea Wednesday. But he said he needed to give the media time to file a request to have a camera in the courtroom.
"We saw significant progress and serious light at the end of this tunnel," said former prosecutor Craig Silverman, who is following the case.
Ruckriegle wrapped up a three-day pretrial hearing Wednesday without resolving two key issues: Whether the accuser's sexual history can be used against her at trial and a defense request to dismiss evidence that includes a hospital exam of the NBA star.
More than 21/2 days of the hearing were held behind closed doors, with sheriff's investigators, a nurse and others trooping into the courtroom to testify.
More witnesses are expected to testify during the May 10-12 hearing.
The judge said hearings on the relevance of the woman's medical and mental health history, and any evidence of alcohol or drug use, will be closed. He rejected suggested alternatives from media groups, including open-court discussions without specific details.