Vanessa Bryant testifies in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant crash photos

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LOS ANGELES — Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, took the witness stand here Friday morning, describing the panic attacks and anguish suffered since learning of the photos taken by and shared between authorities over the 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, daughter and seven others.

“I want to remember my husband and my daughter as they were,” Bryant said, testifying through tears. “I never want to see these photos shared or viewed.”

Bryant’s testimony, at a federal courthouse a few miles from the downtown arena where her late husband led the Lakers to five championships, marked the emotional culmination of a harrowing legal saga playing out here. since the January 2020 crash.

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Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were also among the crash victims, used the civil rights lawsuit to demand answers from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters on why which they took gruesome photos of the crash scene on their mobile phones and then shared them, including at a bar and a firefighter gala.

Bryant said that in late February 2020, a month after the crash, she was in a playroom at her home with her two young children when a television news clipping showed LA County authorities had taken and shared illicit photos from the scene.

“I expected them to have more compassion, respect,” said Bryant, whose testimony was due to continue Friday morning. “My husband and my daughter deserve dignity.”

The afternoon before Bryant took the helm, Chester testified that he felt those answers were still elusive, noting the shifting rationales given by first responders who took the helm. Like Vanessa Bryant, Chester said he was haunted by the possibility that illicit crime scene photos could still surface.

County prosecutors argued that deputies and firefighters had official reasons to take photos at the scene. But the testimony in court of these first responders has sometimes bordered on humiliation. A fire captain claimed he no longer remembered being at the scene and left the witness box to pay his respects three times. Another deputy apologized for showing a bartender pal some photos of the scene. Forensic analysis showed that cell phones and hard drives containing the illicit photos were mysteriously missing or erased.

Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said it’s the kind of embarrassing and damaging testimony that’s typically excluded by regulation. But in this case, with Vanessa Bryant worth hundreds of millions of dollars, there was none.

“If this case wasn’t about Kobe Bryant and the plaintiff didn’t have the resources to pursue the case in court, I doubt it would ever have gone that far,” Levenson said. “For the Bryant family, they want accountability and they have the resources to get it.”

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