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Vanessa Bryant Awarded $16M in Kobe Crash Photo Lawsuit Against L.A. County

Erin WalshAugust 24, 2022

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Vanessa Bryant won her lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff and Fire Departments over photos taken at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others in Calabasas, California, in January 2020.

A jury awarded Bryant $16 million, according to TMZ Sports. Chris Chester, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, was awarded $15 million.

"All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi," Bryant wrote on Instagram Wednesday.

On Friday, Bryant testified in court that she was "blindsided, devastated, hurt and betrayed" upon learning from a February 2020 Los Angeles Times report that first responders had taken photos of Kobe and Gianna at the scene of the crash.

"I felt like I wanted to run down the block and scream," Bryant said. "I can't escape my body. I can't escape what I feel."

She added: "I trusted them. I trusted them to not do these things."

Bryant was suing L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, his department and the L.A. County Fire Department.

She said in the lawsuit that the first responders' actions caused her severe emotional distress. She also testified that if the photos were made public, it would be devastating for her and her family.

According to the lawsuit obtained by TMZ Sports, at least eight sheriff's deputies took photos at the crash site on their personal cellphones.

"The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification," the lawsuit read.

Since sharing the photos, most of the sheriff's deputies have gotten new phones and the photos have been deleted, according to Alene Tchekmedyian of the Los Angeles Times.

In closing arguments Wednesday, L.A. County attorney Mira Hashmall said that deleting the photos "resulted in them never being distributed publicly" and argued that "first responders taking photos did not violate Bryant's rights," according to CNN.

"She urged the jury to consider the law, which only allows for a verdict against the county if it can be proven county policies were deficient enough to prevent the spread of the photos or if there is a longstanding custom of such behavior within the sheriff and fire departments," CNN wrote.

In response to the photos being taken, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an invasion-of-privacy bill in September 2020 called the "Kobe Bryant Act," which makes it illegal for first responders to share photos of the deceased at a crime scene unless it's for official law enforcement purposes.

On the same day Vanessa Bryant received the verdict, just one day after Kobe's Aug. 23 birthday, Los Angeles was celebrating the life of the Lakers legend on "Kobe Bryant Day"—8/24, for the two numbers he wore during his historic NBA career.

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