Kobe Makes Court Appearance on Sexual Assault Charge

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Weathering the gale of a media frenzy, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant (search) appeared in court Wednesday on a sexual assault charge, standing quietly beside his attorneys during a seven-minute hearing in this quiet mountain town.

Attorneys for the 24-year-old Bryant waived his right to be formally advised of the felony assault charge, sparing the Los Angeles Lakers (search) guard even more time in the granite-walled courtroom that was jammed with reporters.

Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett (search) set an Oct. 9 preliminary hearing to determine whether the case will go to trial. The hearing would be one day after a Lakers' preseason game and about three weeks before the start of the regular season.

Bryant spoke only once during the hearing, answering "No sir" when the judge asked if he objected to giving up his right to have the preliminary hearing held within 30 days.

Bryant left the courthouse immediately and was expected to return to California by private jet.

Friends of Bryant's accuser told Fox News that she has told them when she tried to leave Bryant's hotel room, he blocked the door, grabbed her neck and then her wrists. Prosecution sources say they had considered pressing kidnapping charges against Bryant, in addition to the sexual assault charge, but they decided against it.

Bryant has said he had consensual sex with the 19-year-old hotel clerk June 30 but is innocent of assault.

If convicted, Bryant faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000. He is free on $25,000 bond.

The case has been the subject of widespread speculation about Bryant's accuser, a college student who worked at the front desk of the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in nearby Edwards. Bryant was in Colorado to have knee surgery in nearby Vail.

The judge asked the Pitkin County sheriff to investigate whether law enforcement officials were leaking details to reporters in a case he said he was drawing "extraordinary" media coverage.

"I am concerned with some reports that I have seen in the press," Gannett said. "They appear to address issues that are not generally available to the public."

Gannett has already issued a gag order in the case and is weighing media requests to release court records.

The media circus on Wednesday included hundreds of reporters and photographers who swamped the courthouse grounds before the hearing, which was carried live on national cable networks. Even the jury box was filled with curious courthouse employees.

Clad in a cream-colored suit, Bryant strode in between his two attorneys and kept his gaze fixed on Gannett. He passed through a metal detector, and was in and out of the courtroom in about eight minutes.

Bryant's wife, Vanessa, who appeared by his side when he tearfully confessed to adultery, was not present.

Cheers greeted Bryant's arrival and departure outside the courthouse, where about 100 supporters had gathered. Someone called out "Kobe is innocent!" as he arrived in a sport utility vehicle.

Outside, the small city of satellite trucks set up next to a dozen or so platforms for live TV shots provided precisely the type of coverage Bryant was hoping to avoid when his attorneys asked Gannett to allow the Lakers star to skip the procedural hearing. The judge denied the request.

At times, preparation for Bryant's arrival looked more like something for a head of state. A media tent was erected outside the courthouse, authorities brought out the county's only metal detector, and sheriff's deputies were called in on overtime to keep order.

Along with the journalists came Bryant's fans -- people like Eric Tison, 30, who drove three hours from Castle Rock, south of Denver.

"I hope he's innocent. I'm here to support him as a basketball player," said Tison, wearing a Los Angeles Lakers No. 8 jersey and hoping for an autograph. "What goes on in his personal life now is taking away from the game."

Fox News' Carol McKinley, Rita Cosby and The Associated Press contributed to this report.