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Vanessa Bryant's Attorney Says at Trial Kobe Crash Photos Were Shared 'for a Laugh'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 11, 2022

Vanessa Bryant (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

An attorney for Vanessa Bryant argued a "culture of callousness" caused Los Angeles County police officers and firefighters to share photographs from the scene of a helicopter crash that killed her husband, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and seven others.

"They were shared by deputies playing video games. They were shared repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them," attorney Luis Li said during opening statements of a civil trial Wednesday, per Andrew Dalton of the Associated Press.

Li added the pictures were "visual gossip" shared by those who were at the scene "for a laugh."

J. Mira Hashmall, a lawyer for L.A. County, said "site photography is essential" and argued the photos weren't widely distributed after the January 2020 tragedy.

"They're not online. They're not in the media. They've never even been seen by the plaintiffs themselves," Hashmall said. "That is not an accident. That is a function of how diligent they were."

The defense team stated LAPD officials, including sheriff Alex Villanueva, called a meeting and ordered all photos be deleted after being informed they were shown by an off-duty sheriff's deputy at a bar.

Li said the Bryant family wasn't informed of the photo sharing and only found out about it through a Los Angeles Times article, adding Vanessa will be "haunted by what they did forever," per Dalton.

"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."

Bryant is joined by Chris Chester, whose wife, Sara, and daughter, Payton, were also killed in the crash as plaintiffs in the case seeking unspecified damages.

Two other families agreed to a $2.5 million settlement with the county, per Dalton.

The National Transportation Safety Board wrote in its final report that pilot error was the most significant factor in the crash, saying pilot Ara Zobayan entered an area of poor visibility while flying at "excessive airspeed" and lost control of the aircraft.

Temporary statues of Kobe and Gianna were placed at the scene in January as part of a memorial marking two years since their death.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, was posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in May 2021.

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