Vanessa Bryant speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Vanessa Bryant broke down in a federal courtroom today (August 10) as her lawyer described the graphic photos a sheriff’s deputy shared with random people at a bar two days after Kobe Bryant and their 14-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.
As we previously reported, the widow is suing LA county for invasion and privacy and negligence, causing severe emotional distress due to the leaked images.
Per Rolling Stone, lawyer Luis Li showed jurors a video of Deputy Cruz seated at the bar holding his cell phone up to a bartender to show him something, to which the bartender visibly recoils at what he sees and walks away.
“County employees exploited the accident,” Li said. “They took and shared pictures of Kobe and Gianna as souvenirs. …They poured salt in an unhealable wound.”
Li said that first responders “walked around the wreckage and took pictures of broken bodies from the helicopter crash. They took close-ups of limbs, of burnt flesh. It shocks the conscience.”
“This case is about accountability. We’re going to prove to you that county employees took pictures and shared them widely,” Li continued. She said that the images were shared in so many ways to so many people, that there is no guarantee a leak won’t happen sometime in the future. County officials argued the case has no legal merit because the photos haven’t been leaked to the public.
Li says Vanessa lives “in fear, anxiety and terror” that someday she and her family will see the photos.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Kobe Bryant Act following the tragedy, making it a crime for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene for purposes unrelated to the case.
Remembering Kobe Bryant 2 Years After His Death
It still seems surreal that 2 years later, we are even saying “Kobe Bryant” and “death” in the same sentence. It’s hard to grasp that it’s now been two full years since a helicopter crash killed Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others.
The crash outside of Los Angeles was determined to be because of pilot error, primarily. According to the Associated Press, the National Transportation Safety Board said pilot Ara Zobayan “made a series of poor decisions that led him to fly blindly into a wall of clouds where he became so disoriented he thought he was climbing when the craft was plunging toward a Southern California hillside.”
Kobe Bryant was a larger-than-life basketball player, spending his career entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers (he was technically drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, but was traded on draft day to L.A.). And the Hollywood lifestyle played well for Bryant, as he became a 5-time NBA champion, an 18-time NBA All-Star, among a host of other career accomplishments placing him among the greatest players to ever play the game. Who among us hasn’t yelled “KOBE!” when throwing a crumpled piece of paper in a trash can?
Off the court, Bryant was instantly recognizable in commercials, TV shows, music and movies. He even won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball. He was not without controversy, as a 2003 sexual assault allegation hurt his reputation. The case was later dropped, and Bryant issued an apology to the victim.
Kobe Bryant was barely into his off-the-court career at the time of his death, but by all accounts was poised to be just as successful as he had been on the court. He had several business ventures already running, with many more in the works.
As we remember Kobe Bryant two years after his untimely death, we look at several of the tributes that continue to pour in for “Mamba.”