Thursday, May 26, 2022

Los Angeles County Slams Vanessa Bryant’s Lawsuit Over Gruesome Kobe Crash Photos

kobe & vanessa bryant - GettyImages-167941228-1024x742
Vanessa & Kobe Bryant

*Attorneys for Los Angeles County claim Vanessa Bryant is going too far in her lawsuit filed over the four LA County Sheriff’s deputies who allegedly shared graphic images of the helicopter crash site where her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianni and seven others died in January 2020.

As we previously reported, per the Los Angeles Times, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter ruled in March that Vanessa could obtain the deputies’ names and add them to her lawsuit against the sheriff’s department and county over the handling of Kobe’s crash investigation. The  L.A. County lawyers pushed to keep the names sealed to protect the deputies from online threats and harassment. The names were eventually released as part of Vanessa’s amended lawsuit.

Bryant shared several pages of the federal lawsuit in a series of Instagram posts. She filed her lawsuit in September 2020, against LA County, the LA County Fire Department, the sheriff’s department and her amendment includes the deputies whose names were initially redacted when she initially filed the lawsuit. Following Judge Walter’s ruling that the names could be made public, Kobe’s widow wasted no time putting the following officers on blast on social media: Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales.

In response, the county is fighting back in a new court filing this week, arguing that Vanessa is going too far with her relentless search for information to support her case. 

“This straightforward case, with undisputed facts, has turned into a fishing expedition that is taking first responders away from their jobs — and subjecting them to public harassment and threats,” said a filing submitted in federal court this week by attorneys for the county. “Defendants are eager to have their day in Court and put an end to this.”

READ MORE: Friend of Kobe’s Sister Claims Vanessa Bryant Didn’t Invite NBA Star’s Parents to Hall of Fame Ceremony

 

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A post shared by Vanessa Bryant 🦋 (@vanessabryant)

Bryant’s lawsuit seeks to punish the deputies who shared the gruesome images “without any legitimate governmental purpose” and “make an example of them to the community. She has reportedly asked the court to extend the cutoff date for her to submit evidence in the case. Bryant wants that deadline moved from August to February.

The county claims “only government personnel and one friend saw the photographs in question” so therefore, officials believe there is no basis for her lawsuit.

“Plaintiff has dedicated countless hours to meaningless discovery disputes and posting recklessly about the Defendants on social media—all while taking the position that her 50 depositions cannot begin until she has every single document in the County’s possession,” the county’s filing stated. “That is not diligence. There is no basis for modifying the scheduling order.”

“Plaintiff posted the Deputy Defendants’ names online, and they were subjected to harassment and threats,” said a declaration filed in court by attorney Mira Hashmall, who represents the deputies and the county.

Bryant “knows that only one non-governmental individual saw accident site photographs depicting human remains,” the county’s filing states. “Because of how (Bryant) phrased her interrogatories, responses include names of first responders who took accident site photographs not depicting human remains and those who shared accident site photographs with other personnel and agencies (like NTSB) for official purposes. Plaintiff knows there has been no public dissemination.”

Bryant’s attorneys recently asked for more time to submit evidence after learning the misconduct by county officials is “more expansive and more egregious than (Bryant) originally understood.” They said at least 18 sheriff and fire employees “took, shared and/or possessed” photos from the scene of the crash.

The lawsuit charges that the department, “failed to take basic steps to ensure all copies of the improper photos [were] tracked down and sequestered.”

Vanessa is seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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