Attorneys representing Vanessa Bryant in her lawsuit against Los Angeles County after sheriff’s deputies allegedly shared photos of the wreckage and loved ones’ remains following the helicopter crash last year that killed her husband and daughter have come down hard against the county for “launching a full-scale attack” on the widow, court papers show.
Bryant, through attorneys, is not staying quiet following L.A. County attorneys’ claims that her lawsuit and subsequent actions against Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies subjects first responders to “public harassment and threats,” according to previously filed court papers.
“Defendants claim they are being victimized by Mrs. Bryant’s prosecution and public disclosure of this lawsuit,” attorneys stated in their Monday filing with the Central District of California. “But Mrs. Bryant of course has every right to pursue discovery to find out how and why Sheriff’s Department personnel took and shared pictures of her daughter and husband’s remains. She has every right to seek to hold Defendants accountable for their actions and to file her lawsuit in the public record.”
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Among the many claims she’s fighting is county attorneys’ notion that the sheriff’s deputies who shared photos among themselves and at least one member of the public inflicted only “hypothetical” harm on the Bryant family and family members of the other crash victims.
“The discomfort and distress she has suffered from government personnel using graphic photos of her deceased loved ones as gossip fodder is very real,” Bryant’s attorneys wrote in their Monday court filing. “The County’s downplaying of what happened only confirms that Mrs. Bryant cannot trust the County’s internal investigations and must complete an investigation of her own.”
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She also disputed county attorneys’ claim that she is unduly delaying proceedings, and charges that the defendants have changed course.
“For reasons that remain unexplained, over the course of a few weeks, Defendants have gone from agreeing that there is good cause to continue the discovery cutoff to Feb. 11, 2022, to opposing that very same relief and launching a full-scale attack on Mrs. Bryant for having the audacity to request more time to complete her investigation,” the filing states.
Last week, county attorneys responded to Bryant’s request to change the deadline for discovery in her team’s efforts to be given six months longer to execute depositions and compile evidence. They argued that Bryant has turned what would be a “straightforward” case over sheriff’s deputies’ dissemination of her late husband’s and daughter’s crash wreckage into an unnecessary “fishing expedition,” previous court papers show.
County attorneys asked the court to deny Bryant’s motion, arguing that she is delaying developments in the case.
Kobe Bryant and the others were killed Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were aboard crashed west of Los Angeles in the hills of Calabasas.
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Vanessa Bryant, 39, sued the county and the Sheriff’s Department seeking damages for negligence and invasion of privacy, for allegedly sharing graphic photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, their daughter, Gianna, and seven others.
In the lawsuit, Bryant alleges that according to a Sheriff’s Department investigatory report, one deputy took 25 to 100 photos on his personal cell phone that had no value to the investigation. The suit alleges that at least eight deputies snapped cellphone photos.
County attorneys say the photos were not publicly disseminated, arguing that “nothing” made it onto the Internet or in the media.
Bryant’s lawsuit contents that two days after the crash, one of the deputies “boasted” to a bartender at a Southern California bar and grill that he’d responded to the scene and showed photos the trainee deputy had been sent by a colleague. They included bodies of a girl and of Kobe Bryant, the suit alleges.
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The bartender told a table of nearby customers “specific characteristics” of Kobe Bryant’s remains, and the patrons became disturbed enough that one filed an official complaint with the Sheriff’s Department, the suit says.
According to the suit, the deputy also showed the photos to his niece and another bar patron, and texted images to an individual who allegedly shared them with a friend.
In March, Bryant posted the names of four Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on Instagram.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.