Opening arguments in the civil trial over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who shared gruesome pictures of the aftermath of the helicopter crash that killed basketball superstar Kobe Bryant started yesterday.
Grief-stricken relatives of the crash victims, who included Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others, listened as their lawyers explained in detail how deputies showed the photos in group chats and at a bar “for a laugh.” Among the spectators was Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow and Gianna’s mother, who sued the county and the sheriff’s department for invasion of privacy after learning that pictures of her loved ones’ bodies had been snapped with cell phone cameras and then circulated to people not authorized to view images of the scene.
Luis Li, Vanessa Bryant’s lawyer in the case, told a jury that deputies had share the images “while playing video games” and “repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them,” the Associated Press reported.
‘’January 26th, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life. The county made it much worse,’’ Li said. ‘’They poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in.’’
Li played jurors security video of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy drinking at a bar showing the photos to the bartender, who shakes his head in dismay. The lawyer then showed an image of the men laughing together later. Li described firefighters looking at the phone photos two weeks later at an awards banquet, and showed the jury an animated chart documenting their spread to nearly 30 people.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant, along with members of the basketball team that the younger Bryant played on, some of their relatives and a helicopter pilot were killed in January 202o when the helicopter they were flying on crashed into a mountain in heavy fog north of Los Angeles. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled in February 2021 that pilot error caused the fatal accident.
Bryant’s lawsuit is one of several brought by victims’ families over the photos. Chris Chester lost his wife, Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter, Payton, in the crash. His lawsuit is also being adjudicated in the trial that began yesterday. Two other families sued but accepted a $2.5 million settlement with the county last year, USA Today reported.