Vanessa Bryant was drawn to tears as the civil trial she filed against Los Angeles County commenced on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old sued the county back in 2020, claiming they had invaded her family’s privacy by sharing gruesome photos of her husband Kobe Bryant, who, alongside their 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, died in a helicopter crash in January that same year.
According to the Associated Press, Vanessa’s attorney, Luis Li, blamed the county for recklessly exploiting the death of the former NBA star by taking photos on their cell phones “for a laugh” before sharing them in “nonprofessional personal settings,” implying that the snapshots taken were not intended for investigative purposes.
— AS USA (@English_AS) August 10, 2022
Vanessa continued to wipe tears from her face as Li continued to lay her case in a Los Angeles U.S. District courtroom, saying, “January 26, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life.
The county made it much worse. They poured salt into an open wound and rubbed it in. They were shared by deputies playing video games. They were shared repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them.”
In an argument made by Mira Hashmall, who is legally representing the county, it was contended that the photos taken by officials were “essential” for the first responders who arrived on the scene. Both sides were heard by a jury of 10 people, which included a college student, a TV producer, and a nun.
LA Sherriff Alex Villanueva admitted in 2020 that staff members he was working with at the time had taken photos of the crash site and shared them with other colleagues, though he went on to assure that the eight deputies who were in possession of the intrusive images had deleted them soon after.
“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva told NBC4. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.” There was no actual evidence provided to establish that the photos were actually deleted.
Happening today in Los Angeles: The first day of trial in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against LA County over photos taken and distributed of human remains at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna.
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) August 10, 2022
It was also revealed in court how firefighters had also taken snapshots upon arriving to the crash site, before those images were shared with 30 other people two weeks after the tragic accident occurred.
In a pre-trial legal filing made in December, Vanessa detailed the pain and suffering she has had to endure knowing that photos of her loved ones lifeless bodies were taken without consent and shared to others in what she described a clear breach of privacy.
“I will never be able to shake the anguish from knowing that the officials who are supposed to keep us safe treated Kobe and Gianna with such callous disrespect.”