2:22 PM PDT, October 27, 2021
The sheriff of Los Angeles County must testify in a lawsuit filed by Kobe Bryant’s widow alleging deputies improperly shared gruesome photos from the helicopter crash that killed the basketball legend and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick granted Vanessa Bryant’s motion to compel the pretrial depositions from Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Fire Chief Daryl Osby, saying her purpose in seeking the testimony “is neither abusive nor harassing.”
Bryant sued Los Angeles County last year, claiming she and her family suffered severe emotional distress after learning that county rescue employees had allegedly taken and shared images from the site where her Laker star husband died, along with their daughter and seven others others onboard the helicopter.
In his order, Eick wrote that Villanueva and Osby were “likely to have discoverable information” relative to the case, and that information is not entirely obtainable from other sources.
“While we disagree with the court’s decision, we will make both the Sheriff and Fire Chief available for deposition,” said a statement from lawyer Skip Miller, who represents the county. “Their testimony will not change the fact that there is no evidence any photos taken by County first responders have ever been publicly disseminated.”
The lawsuit alleges photos of human remains were taken at the Calabasas helicopter crash site on Jan. 26, 2020 and shared with others.
“Faced with a scene of unimaginable loss, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies at the crash site pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches,” the lawsuit claims.
Attorneys for the county have requested Bryant undergo a psychiatric exam to determine whether her emotional upheaval was caused by the leaked photos or the loss of her husband of nearly 20 years and their daughter.
The county’s lawyers allege Bryant and other plaintiffs in the case “cannot be suffering distress from accident site photos that they have never seen and that were never publicly disseminated.”