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Why his widow is suing LA County

Jury selection is set to begin Wednesday in Vanessa Bryant’s privacy invasion lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff and Fire Department. Bryant is suing the departments for allegedly sharing photographs taken of the remains of her husband, NBA star Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020. Vanessa Bryant filed her lawsuit in federal court in September 2020. In her lawsuit, she claims that photos of the crash site were shared by Los Angeles County employees in contexts that were not relevant to the investigation, including a sheriff’s deputy who allegedly showed images of her husband’s corpse to patrons from the bar.

Bryant’s lawsuit alleges civil rights violations, neglect, emotional distress and invasion of privacy. She is asking for unspecified millions in compensation.

Jury selection began Wednesday during the trial of a lawsuit filed by Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, against Los Angeles County officials. In this photo, Vanessa Bryant (left) and Kobe Bryant are seen at the 2018 Baby2Baby Gala presented by Paul Mitchell at 3LABS on November 10, 2018 in Culver City, California.
Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Baby2Baby

“Ms. Bryant feels bad that sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and members of the public were gawked at gratuitous images of her deceased husband and child,” the lawsuit says, according to Reuters. “She lives in fear that she or her children will one day face horrific images of their loved ones online.”

Los Angeles County countered that Bryant’s emotional distress was caused by the deaths of her husband and daughter and not the leaked photos. To prove the argument, the county sought last year to compel a psychiatric evaluation on Bryant, but a judge denied the request. However, she was ordered to hand over her mental health records.

Skip Miller, a company attorney representing Los Angeles County, told CNN in a November 2001 statement that while the county felt the “deepest sympathy” for Bryant, the photos county employees possessed were not never “publicly released”.

Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashed on January 26, 2020 in the Calabasas Hills west of Los Angeles. The results of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation concluded that the crash was caused by pilot error. Investigators said the crash was likely caused after the pilot flew into cloud in violation of federal rules and became disoriented.

CBSSports.com reported that within days of the crash, approximately 10 members of the Los Angeles Police Department viewed photographs taken of the site. The outlet also reported that a police officer allegedly posted photos of Bryant’s remains on social media.

In February 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department ‘quietly ordered deputies to delete all photos’ of the crash scene after a citizen complained that a deputy showed ‘horrifying’ images at a local bar. MPs were reportedly told they would not be punished if they deleted photos, and the Los Angeles Times wrote that the department tried to “keep the situation calm for five weeks after the accident.”

In response to leaked photos of Bryant’s remains, California implemented a law in September 2020 that prohibits first responders from taking unauthorized photos of an accident or crime scene, according to the California State. Assembly Democratic Caucus.

Newsweek has contacted Vanessa Bryant’s reps for comment.


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