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LA County: Vanessa Bryant suit over Kobe crash photos has no legal basis

By
Don Johnson
Smoldering wreckage from a helicopter crash is seen on a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., on January 26, 2020. The crash killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. File Photo by John McCoy/UPI
Smoldering wreckage from a helicopter crash is seen on a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., on January 26, 2020. The crash killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. File Photo by John McCoy/UPI | License Photo

May 4 (UPI) -- Attorneys in Los Angeles County say Vanessa Bryant, widow of NBA star Kobe Bryant, has no legal basis to sue over photos shared by sheriff's deputies that were taken at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, daughter and seven others last year.

Vanessa Bryant is suing the county for invasion of privacy and says that four deputies took photos of the Jan. 26, 2020, crash scene on their personal cellphones "to take and share gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches."

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Los Angeles County criticized the deputies for sharing the photos, but say in court documents that Vanessa Bryant does not have "viable legal claims."

"The county does not condone this showing of accident site photographs and has taken corrective personnel actions accordingly," they said.

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"That does not mean, however, that plaintiff has viable legal claims. The two seminal cases involve public dissemination of pictures of human remains, and that did not occur here."

While offering "deepest sympathies and condolences" to Bryant's family, county attorneys argue that the lawsuit is not about the chopper crash that killed the former Los Angeles Lakers star, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.

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"It is about accident site photographs," the documents, which were filed Friday and made available Monday, said.

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County attorneys said Bryant's suit is not viable because the photos weren't posted online or shared with news media. They argue that showing accident site photographs to a member of the public does not qualify as invasion of privacy under California law.

A judge ordered the county in March to give the names of the deputies who shared the photos to Bryant, who then posted the names online. In her suit, she says the photos were shared with several members of the sheriff's department and some people outside the department.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he'd ordered the deputies to destroy the photos of the crash site in Calabasas, Calif.

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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 in February that spatial disorientation caused by Zobayan flying through clouds and dense morning fog likely was a key factor in the crash.

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Mourning NBA icon Kobe Bryant one year later

A mural honors Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in Los Angeles a year after the Calabasas, Calif., helicopter crash that killed them and seven others. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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