Attorneys for Vanessa Bryant are requesting that trial be postponed until next year in an invasion of privacy lawsuit alleging that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and other officials shared unauthorized photos taken at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, according to court papers obtained Wednesday.
Bryant is suing the county and its sheriff’s and fire departments, along with four deputies alleged to have shared images taken on personal cell phones at the Jan. 26, 2020, crash scene.
The trial is set for Nov. 16 in Los Angeles federal court, but Bryant’s lawyers are asking for a continuance until April 27 of next year. A hearing is set for June 7 before U.S. District Judge John Walter to discuss the matter.
According to court papers filed Monday, 66 county employees have “relevant knowledge, and documents have revealed that at least 18 agents or employees of the Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department took, shared, or possessed improper photos of the accident scene where Mrs. Bryant’s loved ones tragically perished.”
More time is needed to prepare for trial, according to Bryant’s attorneys, due to the need for numerous depositions and forensic examinations of electronic devices and cloud-based storage accounts to try to “recover deleted evidence and shed light on the extent of defendants’ dissemination of the illicit photos.
“As a result, maintaining the current schedule would prejudice Mrs. Bryant’s ability to prosecute her claims and hold defendants accountable,” the plaintiff’s attorneys wrote.
The lawsuit alleges that county officials used personal cell phones “to take and share gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches.” According to the suit, Sheriff Alex Villanueva initially assured Bryant of privacy when she expressed concerns just after the crash occurred.
The suit, seeking damages for negligence and invasion of privacy, claims that a deputy at the scene took between 25 and 100 photos that had “no conceivable investigatory purpose and were focused directly on the victims’ remains,” and showed the accident site images to other government personnel and to a friend who is a bartender in Norwalk.
The county responded to Bryant’s suit, arguing that her claims will not stand.
“This straightforward case, with undisputed facts, has turned into a fishing expedition that is taking first responders away from their job — and subject them to public harassment and threats,” county lawyers wrote in their papers. “Defendants are eager to have their day in court and put an end to this.”