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On what would have been the late great’s Kobe Bryant’s 44th birthday, attorneys for his widow and a co-plaintiff urged a jury Tuesday to consider awarding 75 million dollars for emotional distress and violation of constitutional rights caused by Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters taking and sharing of close-up images of their loved ones’ remains.
The lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Christopher Chester against Los Angeles County is centered on the photos taken after the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna, as well as Chester’s wife Sarah, daughter Payton and five others on January 26, 2000.
According to CNN, witnesses during the trial included a deputy who said he showed graphic images from the scene while at a bar, another deputy who said he shared photos while playing a video game, a deputy who sent dozens of photos to someone he didn’t know, and a fire official who showed the images to other personnel during an awards ceremony cocktail hour.
“You can’t award too much money for what they went through,” said Jerome Jackson, who represents Chester, in his closing arguments. “What they went through is inhuman and inhumane.”
Bryant and Chester should each be awarded $2.5 million for the pain they’ve already suffered, plus another amount between $100,000 and $1 million for each year of the remainder of their lives, Jackson said.
That would bring the total to between $6.5 million and $42.5 million for Bryant and between $5.5 million and $32.5 million for Chester, he said.
Los Angeles County maintains its handling of the photos ultimately resulted in their successful deletion and argues it is being sued for photos that haven’t ever been public. But Lavoie told jurors the county can’t ensure that because one of its deputies airdropped the photos to a fire captain that is still unidentified and Jordan’s laptop was missing a hard drive when it was turned into the county.
Jennings Lavoie walked the jury through key points of the evidence in the trial, including the conflicting statements of those who took and shared the photos, as well as the two main public incidents at which county workers shared crash-scene photos. One involved fire captain Tony Imbrenda showing crash photos at an awards gala in February 2020, when a witness testified she overheard that the photos included an image of Kobe’s “burnt-up” body, which Imbrenda denied at trial.
In another case, Jennings Lavoie told the jury the “clearest example” of a violation came from sheriff’s deputy trainee, Joey Cruz, who showed crash-scene photos at a restaurant bar two days after the crash.
Lavoie reminded the jury that in a federal civil suit, one does not need to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt; instead, the jury is asked to determine whether Los Angeles County, more likely than not, violated Bryant’s and Chester’s constitutional rights due to inadequate policies or training, and/or a custom or practice of taking illicit photos of the deceased.
“They stole his dignity and his family’s privacy,” Jackson said of his client. “They did it intentionally. They did it cruelly. They did it inhumanely. And they laughed about it, and they lied about it. And then they tried to fight it with a clumsy, sloppy and dumb cover-up where at times they couldn’t even keep their story straight.”
Amid the difficult trial, in which Vanessa Bryant had to leave the courtroom, on Tuesday, Bryant posted an Instagram message for Kobe, wishing him a happy birthday.
Filed in September 2020, the lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages, claiming civil rights violations, negligence, emotional distress and violation of privacy.