LA (AP) An institutional culture of callousness led LA County deputies and firefighters to shoot and share photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant along with other victims of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed the Lakers star, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others, an attorney for Bryants widow told a jury Wednesday.
Vanessa Bryants attorney Luis Li told jurors in his opening statement in U.S. District Court in her invasion of privacy trial contrary to the county that the cell-phone photos shot at the crash scene by way of a deputy and a fire captain were visual gossip viewed for fun, and had no official purpose.
These were shared by deputies playing video gaming, Li said. These were shared repeatedly with individuals who had zero reason to get them.
A lawyer for the county defended the taking of the photos being an essential tool for first-responders wanting to share information if they thought they could still save lives at the chaotic, dangerous and hard-to-reach crash scene in the Calabasas hills west of LA
Site photography is vital, county lawyer J. Mira Hashmall said.
Vanessa Bryant cried frequently during her lawyers presentation. She was still wiping tears from her eyes minutes afterward throughout a break.
Li told jurors that learning per month following the crash concerning the photos circulation not from the county however the LA Times compounded her still-raw suffering.
January 26th, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryants life. The county managed to get much worse, Li said. They poured salt within an open wound and rubbed it in.
Li played jurors security video of an off-duty sheriffs deputy drinking at a bar showing the photos to the bartender, who shakes his head in dismay. The lawyer then showed a graphic of the men laughing together later. Li described firefighters considering the telephone photos fourteen days later at an awards banquet, and showed the jury an animated chart documenting their spread to nearly 30 people.
Li said the county didn’t conduct an intensive investigation to ensure every copy of the photo was accounted for, and due to the fear that they can someday surface, and her surviving children could see them online, Vanessa Bryant will undoubtedly be haunted with what they did forever.
Through the defenses opening statement, Hashmall told jurors that the truth that the pictures haven’t appeared in a lot more than 2 yrs showed that leaders in the sheriffs and fire department did their jobs.
Theyre not online. Theyre not in the media. Theyve never even been seen by the plaintiffs themselves, Hashmall said. She added, That’s not an accident. That is clearly a function of how diligent these were.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva and department officials immediately earned those involved and ordered them to delete the photos, instead of conduct an extended official investigation that may harm the families further, she said.
He picked what he seen as the only real option decisive action, Hashmall said. He felt like every second mattered.
Hashmall told the jury that the reason why Li even had the video of the bartender showing, which she suggested was deceptively edited showing the men laughing together, was as the Sheriffs Department had gotten it exactly the same day they received a complaint from another bar patron who witnessed the photo sharing.
She said the deputy was struggling emotionally from the issue of coping with the crash scene, and that the bartender was a longtime friend in whom he was confiding.
He pulled out his phone, and which should not need happened, she said. In a lapse, in an instant of weakness, he showed those photos, and he’s got regretted it each day of his life.
The defense attorney urged jurors to check at night grief of these who brought the lawsuit and concentrate on the problem before them.
There is absolutely no doubt these families have suffered, she said. Its unspeakable. But this case isn’t concerning the loss from the crash. Its concerning the pictures.
Chris Chester, whose wife, Sara, and daughter Payton were also killed in the crash, can be a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified millions.
The county already decided to pay $2.5 million to stay an identical case brought by two families whose relatives died in the Jan. 26, 2020, crash. Bryant and Chester declined to stay.
Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-od daughter Gianna, along with other parents and players were flying to a girls basketball tournament when their chartered helicopter crashed in the fog. Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the wreck.