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Bryant speaks out against charges


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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Kobe Bryant proclaimed his innocence Friday night with his wife, Vanessa, by his side.

"I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making a mistake of adultery," Bryant told a news conference at the Staples Center, the arena where his Los Angeles Lakers play.

Bryant struggled to find the words to begin. He fought back tears as he talked, repeating "I'm innocent" a handful of times in a short, apparently unscripted speech. He paused at length in some parts. Despite the room filled with cameras, he tried to downplay his superstar persona.

"I mourn. I cry. Just like everybody else," he said. "I sit here before you guys embarrassed and ashamed for committing adultery."

Bryant made the comments hours after he was charged with one count of sexual assault against a 19-year-old hotel worker in Colorado, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The victim has not been named and has not spoken publicly. Her friends describe her as an honest, ambitious woman

Bryant, however, held the nation's attention with his live press conference in which he declared his love for his wife.

Turning to her, he said, "You're a piece of my heart. You're the air I breath. And you're the strongest person I know. And I'm so sorry for having to put you through this, for having to put our family through this."

Bryant said he would fight the charges.

"Shoulder to shoulder, we're going to fight this all the way to the end."

Vanessa Bryant did not speak, staring at the crowd of reporters.

After giving his speech, Bryant stood up, grabbed his wife's hand and silently walked out of the room. Not a single reporter asked Bryant a question.

When the door shut behind Bryant, his attorney, Pamela Mackey, said she would take "a limited number of questions."


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