March 9 (UPI) -- A federal judge in California has ruled that authorities must release the names of the sheriff's deputies accused of sharing graphic photos from the scene of a helicopter crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant and eight others last year.
The judge said Monday that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department must disclose the names and ranks of all four deputies involved in the matter to widow Vanessa Bryant.
Vanessa Bryant filed the lawsuit a year ago after the photos leaked online.
"Although the court recognizes that this case has been the subject of public scrutiny and media attention and that the deputy defendants are legitimately concerned that they will encounter vitriol and social media attacks, such concerns, by themselves, are not sufficient to outweigh the public's strong interest in access," District Court Judge John Walter wrote.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he'd ordered the deputies to destroy the photos of the crash site in Calabasas, Calif., where Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, while on their way to a youth basketball game.
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The county, though, sought to have the officials' names protected to prevent hackers from attempting to gain access to their personal devices to find the photographs and publish them.
Vanessa Bryant called for the release of the deputies' names last month in an Instagram Stories post.
"The sheriff's department wants to redact the names of the deputies that took and/or shared photos of my husband, daughter and other victims," she wrote. "Anyone else facing allegations would be unprotected, named and released to the public.
"These specific deputies need to be held accountable for their actions just like everyone else."
The others who died in the crash were Alyssa Altobelli, Payton Chester, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan. Alyssa and Payton were Gianna Bryant's basketball teammates and Mauser was an assistant coach.
The National Transportation Safety Board said last month that spatial disorientation caused by Zobayan flying through clouds and dense morning fog likely led to the crash.