Kobe Presents Wife $4 Mil Diamond Ring

07/24/2003 at 10:20 AM EDT

This past Monday -- three days after Colorado prosecutors announced that he was being charged with the June 30 rape of a 19-year-old employee at a resort he had visited -- Kobe Bryant, his wife, Vanessa, and their 6-month-old daughter, Natalia, walked into an exclusive jewelry boutique in Santa Monica, Calif., PEOPLE reports in its latest issue. Their purpose for being there: to pick up the surprise that the NBA star had waiting for Vanessa -- a stunning 8-carat purple diamond ring worth about $4 million.

No, this was not some last-minute apology gift; the magazine reports that Bryant had commissioned the sparkler two weeks before.

Vanessa, 21, was dazzled and Kobe, 24, beamed, reports PEOPLE. "They looked very happy together," says the jeweler, Raffi, who also designed the couple's wedding rings. "When they left, Kobe and Vanessa were holding hands."

That's just as they did last Friday at L.A.'s Staples Center, where Bryant declared his innocence during a press conference held three hours after he was charged with sexual assault -- a class-three felony that can carry a prison term of four years to life and a probation period of 20 years to life, said Eagle County (Colo.) District Attorney Mark Hurlburt.

Bryant, currently free on $25,000 bond, told reporters about his accuser: "I didn't force her to do anything against her will. I'm innocent."

He went on to say, "I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery. And I love my wife with all my heart."

As a tear rolled down Bryant's left cheek, he then told Vanessa: "You're my backbone. You're a blessing. You're a piece of my heart. You're the air I breathe. And you're the strongest person I know, and I'm so sorry for having to put you through this and having to put our family through this."

Bryant stressed, "I'm innocent. And together my wife and I and our family, we're going to fight these false accusations."

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