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Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash Photo Lawsuit Leads to New California Law

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a tour of a cooling center with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif. Newsom declared an emergency Tuesday over wildfires burning throughout California as the state's power grid operator pleaded with residents and businesses to continue conserving energy to avoid rolling blackouts. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool)
Paul Kitagaki Jr./Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed off on a law that criminalizes the act of first responders' capturing unauthorized photos of deceased victims at the scene of a crime or accident, according to the Associated Press.

The Los Angeles Times' Alene Tchekmedyian and Paul Pringle reported in February that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department ordered some deputies to delete photos from the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed the story to NBC News.

"That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist," he said. "We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And, we're content that those involved did that."

Starting Jan. 1, those found guilty of the new law will face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $1,000.

On Sept. 17, Vanessa Bryant filed a civil suit against Villanueva and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

"Lawyers for Bryant said the photos were shared in settings irrelevant to the investigation, including at a bar," CNN's Stella Chan reported. "A bartender overheard a trainee deputy use his photo to brag and try to impress a woman, and the bartender filed a written complaint with the sheriff's department, the lawsuit states."

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The lawsuit also said family members of the victims were told authorities had secured the site of the crash, only to learn TMZ had broken the story of Bryant's death based on information it received from the sheriff's department.