July 21, 2024

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Vanessa Bryant testifies in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant plane crash photos

Vanessa Bryant testifies in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant plane crash photos


Vanessa Bryant, widow of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, set up the witness stand here Friday morning, describing panic attacks and nights that have gone since she learned that deputies and firefighters have used personal cell phones to take and post photos of panic victims. Her husband and daughter were killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash in 2020.

Bryant said of the day in February 2020 when she learned of the publication of the shocking photos taken a month ago and then shared by a deputy with a friend at a bar, and by a firefighter at a party, among other instances. “I just felt like I wanted to run down the block and scream.”

Bryant’s testimony, in federal court a few miles from the downtown plaza where her late husband led the Lakers to five championships, was the emotional climax of the legal saga that has escalated shortly after the January 2020 incident. The case raised questions about how to deal with the alleged misconduct. By senior officials of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Fire Department.

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Bryant, who often testifies through tears, said she lives in fear of photos of her loved ones’ remains appearing on social media, blaming authorities for posting photos she said they shouldn’t have taken in the first place.

“They abused her,” Bryant said of her 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, “taking advantage of the fact that her father couldn’t protect her because he was in the morgue.”

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Bryant’s fellow plaintiff in the civil rights lawsuit, Chris Chester, had previously testified that recognition of the photos’ publication resulted in “sadness above grief”. He dismissed the notion, advanced by county attorneys, that first responders took and shared the photos for legitimate reasons.

“I never would have thought, in the wildest imagination, that someone with a personal cell phone with a Los Angeles Dodgers sticker on the back” would take photos at the bumpy crash scene over Calabasas, California, and share them with others, Chester said. .

But Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who also testified on Friday, confirmed that the deputy, who took mobile phone photos — some of which were close-up shots of body parts — and then shared them with others, was interested in recording the scene before firefighters or onlookers trampled on it. .

Lawyers for Bryant and Chester Villanueva challenged recordings of previous media interviews in which the mayor stated there was no legitimate reason for his deputies to take cellphone photos at the scene and referred to “death notebooks” in which police collect photos as illegal souvenirs of their careers.

“I’m telling the truth to the best of my ability at the time,” said Villanueva, who is currently facing an opponent in the run-off. He defended his handling of the scandal, which included granting a “pardon” to any MPs who deleted the photos from their phones rather than trying to preserve them as evidence of misconduct.

Villanueva said his primary goal is to make sure the photos don’t spread further. “You can’t take responsibility and risk taking the photos out,” Villanueva said. “You have to choose one of the two. And we made the right choice.”

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The trial, which will enter its third week on Monday, has seen a few agonizing moments for county officials.

A retired fire captain witnessed by a deputy mayor who took pictures with his mobile phone at the scene of the accident, He claimed that he no longer remembered being there – His previous affidavit contradicted – and he had to take several breaks from the testimony to collect himself. senior official sheriff I apologize for the situation Because of the apparent lies he said about whether a complaint was filed about Vice’s sharing of scene photos. Forensic analysis revealed the disappearance of phones and other devices that would have shed light on the spread of images, including the laptop of a firefighting official who was found to have lost a hard disk.

Such embarrassing revelations are often prevented from broadcasting in court through a financial settlement. But in this case, where Vanessa Bryant is worth hundreds of millions, no such settlement was reached.

Lori Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said the wealth and determination of one plaintiff posed a unique dilemma for the county. “If this case had not been about Kobe Bryant, and if the plaintiff had not had the resources to pursue this case to trial, I doubt it would have gone that far,” Levinson said. “For the Bryant family, they want accountability, and they have the resources to get it.”

Bryant, 40, described her increased resolve when she received the clothes Kobe and Gianna were wearing during the accident. Depending on the state of the clothes, she said, “you can tell they suffered” — which made her even more irritated to think that first responders had treated the photos of their remains as new.

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“I want justice for my husband and daughter,” Bryant said.

Both Bryant and Chester, whose wife and daughter were killed in the accident, said they did not trust the county’s assurances that all mobile phone photos taken at the scene would never appear.

Villanueva testified on Friday that “I think they were all deleted” – evidence that the photos were not, to his knowledge, posted online.

But Villanueva, who said in his previous affidavit that he believed the images had spread to 28 phones, also appeared to have first learned on Friday that one of his deputies had admitted sending dozens of such images via Airdrop to an unprecedented fire captain. specified.

The sheriff’s confidence that all the photos had been wiped out became that he was “absolutely sure” that they were gone. When Chester’s attorney further challenged how he knew this, Villanueva continued to hedge.

Sharif concluded by saying: “God knows best.” “And that’s all there is to it.”