A federal judge granted Vanessa Bryant’s request to force the Los Angeles County sheriff and fire chief to answer questions about the pictures first responders snapped at the site of the 2020 crash that killed her husband Kobe, daughter Gianna, and seven others.
Bryant’s Tuesday legal win came several weeks after the widow of the NBA legend was deposed in connection with her emotional distress lawsuit.
The 39-year-old recounted the day of the deadly crash and her reaction to learn that emergency workers had snapped photos of the grisly scene, and in at least one case showed off the twisted souvenirs around town, according to a 50-page transcript of the deposition.
US Magistrate Judge Charles Eick ruled Sheriff Alex Villanueva and County Fire Chief Daryl Osby would be compelled to give pre-trial testimony about the photos in regards to the civil lawsuit filed by Bryant and other victims, who claim the pictures caused emotional distress, according to court documents viewed by The Post.
Vanessa Bryant speaks during a celebration of life for her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Eick ruled the men have “unique firsthand, non-repetitive knowledge relevant to the issues in this case” that is “not entirely obtainable” through other sources.
The length of their deposition would be limited to four hours, as to not interfere with their professional duties.
The county had argued that top officials “are not normally subject to deposition, absent extraordinary circumstances.”
“While we disagree with the court’s decision, we will make both the Sheriff and Fire Chief available for deposition,” lawyer Skip Miller told USA Today Sports. “Their testimony will not change the fact that there is no evidence any photos taken by County first responders have ever been publicly disseminated.”
Villanueva previously admitted that as many as eight deputies had snapped, seen or shared images of the Calabasas disaster. One deputy took up to 100 pictures on his phone, and another showed them off at a bar, Bryant’s suit alleged.
Bryant told investigators Villanueva personally guaranteed her that no images would be leaked to the media, and top cop said he later forced his deputies to delete the pictures.
This Feb. 26, 2018, file photo shows Vanessa Bryant, from left, Kobe Bryant, Natalia Bryant and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant at the world premiere of "A Wrinkle in Time" in Los Angeles. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
“The impact of the helicopter crash was so damaging, I just don’t understand how someone can have no regard for life and compassion, and, instead, choose to take that opportunity to photograph lifeless and helpless individuals for their own sick amusement,” Bryant said on Oct. 12, according to the transcript.
She was being grilled by interviewers as to whether her distress was caused by the pictures, or the tragedy itself.
“[While they] have undoubtedly suffered severe distress and trauma from the crash and resulting loss of their loved ones, their distress was not caused by [the first responders] or any accident site photos that were never publicly disseminated,” the county has claimed in court documents.