LA County Took 'Corrective' Actions on Employees Who Shared Kobe Bryant Crash Photos

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 4, 2021

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 09: Vanessa Laine Bryant (L) and Kobe Bryant attend the 2019 Baby2Baby Gala Presented by Paul Mitchell at 3LABS on November 09, 2019 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)
Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

Los Angeles County said Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, has no "viable legal claims" in her case against the county after sheriff's department deputies took and shared photos of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed the NBA legend, the couple's daughter Gianna and seven others.

Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today reported Monday the county wrote in court filings it took "corrective personnel actions" against Sheriff's Department deputies who allegedly shared the photos. Vanessa Bryant alleged four deputies had shared photos from the site.

Los Angeles County argued "showing an accident site photograph to one member of the public cannot constitute an invasion of Plaintiff's privacy."

"They were not publicly disseminated," the county said. "Plaintiff brought this lawsuit because she is concerned that photographs may be publicly disseminated. There is no legal basis for suing Defendants for hypothetical harm."

The county's filing added it "expresses its deepest sympathies and condolences to the Bryant family for their loss" but denied any legal or civil responsibility.

"This case is not about that tragedy," the county said. "It is about accident site photographs."

In March, a judge allowed Vanessa Bryant to name the four deputies allegedly involved in sharing the photos—Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales—as part of the updated lawsuit, which said the officers had engaged in "morbid gossip," per NBC Los Angeles.

The civil lawsuit was originally filed in September. Two other families have filed similar lawsuits regarding the crash-scene photos.

Bryant's attorney wrote in a filing last week their investigation is ongoing, with plans for "more than 40 depositions, forensic examinations of electronic devices and cloud-based storage accounts in the possession of Defendants and third parties, and expert reports and depositions," per Schrotenboer.

The initial lawsuit sought "damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress," and the updated filing said it wants the four deputies punished to "make an example of them to the community."