Vanessa Bryant says she felt “sick” and “extreme sadness and anger” when she learned that Los Angeles County Sheriff and Fire Department employees allegedly took gruesome photos of the bodies of her late husband and the couple’s 13-year-old and had shared daughter at the scene of the helicopter crash, in which nine people were killed, according to court files received on Tuesday morning.
The NBA legend’s widow is demanding millions in damages for the severe emotional distress she allegedly endured after discovering graphic digital images of the helicopter crash scene being passed around by county employees.
In a statement filed late Monday, Bryant said the allegations “caused me tremendous pain and distress”.
Bryant’s attorneys are calling on a federal judge to deny a motion to dismiss the defense and move the case forward. District attorneys argued in court records last month that Bryant’s claim of the emotional distress from allegedly sharing the cellphone photos was due to “hypothetical harm” and therefore has no meaning since the pictures were never publicly distributed and she has never seen them.
Bryant replied that she was furious “that the people I trusted to protect the dignity of my husband and daughter had abused their positions to obtain mementos of their deaths, as if having pictures of their remains were them.” somehow makes it special. I imagine that Kobe is watching over what is happening at the accident site, and I am overwhelmed with anger and emotion, “the statement said.
New court records claim dozens of civil servants were aware of gruesome images in the Kobe Bryant crash photos lawsuit. Eric Leonard will be joining NBC4 News on April 15, 2021 at 11 p.m.
In quotes apparently from his court-ordered testimony, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that taking and sharing such pictures was “totally inappropriate” and “disgusting”, exposing attempts to “take a trophy away from the crime scene.”
In its application for dismissal, the district says it is “undisputed that the offending photos were never publicly distributed in the media, on the Internet or in any other way.” Consequently, Bryant’s allegation that he was afraid of the photos appearing does not constitute grounds for the lawsuit, the district attorneys argue.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for December 27th in the Los Angeles Federal Court. A jury trial is scheduled for February 22nd, if the case continues.
“The close-ups of Gianna’s and Kobe’s remains were passed around on at least 28 LASD devices and by at least a dozen firefighters,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote. “And that was just the beginning. The free sharing continued in the days and weeks that followed and involved such outrageous behavior as displaying the photos in a bar while pantomiming and showing the photos over cocktails at an awards ceremony. A deputy laughed while sharing the photos; another described the remains of the victims as “hamburgers” and “heaps of meat”.
Such alleged behavior, which resulted from the county’s “willful indifference”, is more than reason enough to bring the lawsuit to a jury, argued Bryant.
The widow claims the county – through its sheriffs and fire departments – violated their rights by taking and sharing photos of the January 26, 2020 helicopter crash site. One of her allegations is that in order to protect herself in the event of a legal dispute, Villanueva ordered evidence to be removed from the phones of MPs who may be in possession of pictures of crash sites.
In his testimony, Villanueva testified that he told his staff to remove the photos to ensure the graphic images were not disclosed, which would cause additional harm to the suffering families of the victims, according to district attorneys.
“I can tell you that,” the sheriff is quoted under oath. “That the problem was with images leaking out and harming families. I make decisions based on the imminent threat, what damage these images can do to the family. I don’t make decisions based on myself could be sued. ” six months later. That’s absurd.”
In a win for the county, U.S. Judge Charles Eick ruled that 39-year-old Bryant must submit her four-year mental health record, which district attorneys believe is necessary to battle the lawsuit.
The county claims there is no evidence that “pictures of death” were shared within the sheriff or fire department. When allegations of inappropriate photo sharing emerged, “They took appropriate action. Every action was aimed at preventing harm, not causing it, ”Defense documents read.
“Contrary to what the plaintiff claims, the photos did not focus on the remains of any of the victims, but were general views of the scene of the accident that first responders and investigators typically use to assess the damage caused by tragic accidents like this one,” said the County. “None of the photos were sent to anyone outside of the county or publicly distributed.”
The county claims the plaintiff’s emotional burden was due to the loss of family members, not the photos, which Bryant never saw and only learned from newspaper reports.
A previous motion by the district found the defendants sorry for Bryant.
“It was a terrible accident that killed nine innocent people,” the district attorneys wrote. “But the county didn’t cause it. The county staff worked tirelessly to protect the crash site, identify the victims and notify the families. This lawsuit is legally unfounded and should be dismissed.”