The widow of Kobe Bryant sobbed in court as her lawyer described to the jury how Los Angeles emergency personnel released pictures of her late husband and daughter’s dismembered bodies.
In a federal hearing on Wednesday, Vanessa Bryant cried as her attorney explained how, only two days after the NBA star’s death, sheriff’s detectives and firemen showed horrific photographs of his “decapitated corpse” to uninvited guests at a California club.
Gianna, Kobe’s daughter who was 13 years old, and seven other people died in a helicopter accident on January 26, 2020.
The group’s hired helicopter crashed in the Calabasas hills while they were travelling to a ladies basketball event.
Regarding the exposed images, Vanessa has launched a multimillion-dollar federal invasion of privacy lawsuit against the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
She alleges that when she considered that others would be “gawking” at gory photographs of her deceased husband and daughter, she experienced “extreme emotional agony” and felt “physically unwell.”
The bereaved mother and wife said the cops took the pictures “for their own selfish enjoyment” rather than for investigation objectives.
During a dramatic opening statement on Wednesday, Luis Li, the attorney representing Vanessa, explained to the jury’s 10 members how police personnel “exploited the event” by capturing and disseminating “photos of Kobe and Gianna as souvenirs.”
Li opened his remarks by playing a clip of Deputy Joey Cruz enjoying a meal at Norwalk, California’s Baja California Bar & Grill.
The cop may be seen showing the bartender something on his cellphone. When the employee reportedly sees Kobe’s body, he or she “visibly recoils” and turns to leave.
Li reportedly told the jury that January 26, 2020, “was and always will be the saddest day in Vanessa Bryant’s life.”
“This case involves responsibility. We’ll show you that county staff took photos and disseminated them extensively.
The lawyer said how officers from the sheriff’s department and the fire department “walked around the debris and took images of shattered corpses from the helicopter accident.”
They captured close-ups of burned flesh and limbs. Before presenting an audio clip of a detective alleging his wife wouldn’t look at the photographs after he referred to the accident victims as “piles of flesh,” Li stated, “It disturbs the conscience.
The complaint claims that the “gratuitous photos” were widely discussed inside the sheriff’s office and often shown in “settings that had nothing to do with investigating the tragedy.”
The lawsuit claims that one cop spoke about his attendance at the collision scene to a lady at a pub in an effort to impress her.
County staff took advantage of the mishap. As mementos, they snapped and disseminated photos of Kobe and Gianna, Li told the jurors. They “poured salt into a gaping wound.”
Vanessa’s case alleging invasion of privacy has “no legal basis,” according to the county, since the pictures were never made public.
“It is undeniable that the alleged images were never published in the press, online, or in any other way for public consumption. County lawyers claimed that plaintiff Vanessa Bryant had never viewed county photographs of her family.
The county’s attorney, Skip Miller, told the magazine in a statement before the trial that “the truth remains that the county did not cause Ms. Bryant’s loss.”
None of the county’s accident site photographs were ever made publicly available, as was promised the day of the collision, he said.
“The county looks forward to proving that in trial. The county did its duty.”
The complaint claims that at least 28 sheriff’s department devices and at least a dozen firemen shared close-up pictures of Gianna and Kobe’s bodies.
They were also flaunted during an awards ceremony and at bars.
The lawsuit claims that Mrs. Bryant is sickened by the idea that sheriff’s officers, firemen, and members of the public have looked at gratuitous pictures of her murdered husband and kid.
She often worries that she or her kids would come across gruesome pictures of their loved ones online.
Vanessa’s lawyer claimed that a private spectator at the 2020 Golden Mike Awards, a televised television awards ceremony held less than a month after the collision, saw Tony Imbrenda, the public information officer for the LA County Fire Department, discussing and displaying the images to others.
A Los Angeles police officer, according to a bartender in Norwalk, California, showed him the images.
When she saw there were no survivors, the widow allegedly gave LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva the order to protect the scene of the tragedy and prohibit photography.
Please make sure that no one snaps pictures of my spouse and child if you are unable to return them, she pleaded.
Federal safety experts attributed the accident to pilot error.
Vanessa allegedly experienced severe pain as a result of the deaths, not the images that the sheriff had them removed.
They argued that the claim is hypothetical since the images have never been published in the press, online, or in any other way that would have allowed for public dissemination.
Vanessa’s action and a related one brought by financial advisor Chris Chester of Orange County were combined by US District Judge John Walter. In the collision, he lost his wife, Sarah, and daughter Payton, who was 13 years old.
“Mrs. Bryant and Mr. Chester have the risk, have the dread, have the worry, have the horror that they could have to relive the death of their family members in the most terrible manner every single day since the county did what it did,” Li said on Wednesday.
The lawyer asserts that his clients want the law enforcement organisation to be held liable for adding to the crash’s misery.
It is illegal for first responders to take unauthorised pictures of persons who have passed away at the site of an accident or crime, according to a California legislation that was inspired by the collision.
The county already agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve a complaint identical to this one filed by two families whose members perished in the disaster on January 26, 2020.
Vanessa’s failure to reach a settlement suggests that she still has demands. The legal battle has sometimes been acrimonious.
Her attorneys condemned the “scorched-earth discovery techniques” used to pressure Vanessa and other victims’ families to drop their claims when the county requested a psychiatric assessment of Vanessa to establish if she experienced mental distress as a result of the images.
The county replied by calling Vanessa’s lawsuit a “money grab” and expressing sympathy for her losses.
Vanessa has also brought legal action against the pilot’s estate as well as the helicopter charter business.