A “culture of callousness” saw EMS workers take and share pictures of Kobe Bryant’s body, a court has been told.
Hotograms of the basketball star — and other victims of a helicopter crash — were taken by Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters, an attorney for Bryant’s widow told a jury Wednesday.
The 41-year-old Lakers icon was killed in the clash two years ago along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, told jurors in his opening statement in her county privacy invasion trial that cellphone pictures taken by a deputy and firefighter at the scene were “visual gossip” viewed “for fun.” and none had an official purpose.
“They were shared by MPs playing video games,” Mr. Li said.
“They were repeatedly shared with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them.”
A county attorney defended the photos as an indispensable tool for emergency responders wanting to share information when they thought they could still save lives at the chaotic, dangerous and hard-to-reach accident site in the Calabasas Hills west of LA.
“On-site photography is essential,” said Jennifer Mira Hashmall.
Ms. Bryant frequently cried during her attorney’s presentation.
She was still wiping tears from her eyes during a break minutes later.
video of the day
Mr. Li told jurors that learning the distribution of the photos not from the county but from the Los Angeles Times a month after the crash aggravated their still dire affliction.
“January 26, 2020 was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life. The county has made it much worse,” Mr. Li said.
“They poured salt into an open wound and rubbed it in.”
Mr. Li played CCTV footage to the jury of an off-duty deputy sheriff drinking at a bar and showed the photos to the bartender, who shook his head in dismay.
The lawyer then showed a picture of the men later laughing together.
Mr. Li described firefighters looking at the phone photos at an awards banquet two weeks later and showed the jury an animated graph documenting its spread to nearly 30 people.
Mr Li said the county had failed to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure every copy of the photo was accounted for and that fears they would one day surface and her surviving children might see them online meant Ms Bryant was “being prosecuted.” become of what they have done forever”.
During the defense’s opening statement, Ms Hashmall told the jury that the fact that the pictures had not appeared in more than two years showed that the sheriff’s and fire department leaders were doing their jobs.
“You are not online. You are not in the media. They haven’t even been seen by the plaintiffs themselves,” she said.
“It’s no coincidence. That depends on how diligent they have been.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva and department officials immediately brought everyone involved and ordered them to delete the images rather than conduct a lengthy official investigation that could further harm the families, she said.
“He chose what he saw as the only option – decisive action,” Ms Hashmall said.
“He felt like every second counted.”
Ms Hashmall told the jury the reason Mr Li even had to show the bartender’s video, which she says was deceptively edited to show the men laughing together, was because the sheriff’s department received it the same day , on which they received a complaint from another player who witnessed the sharing.
She said the deputy was struggling emotionally with the difficulty of dealing with the accident scene and the barman was a longtime friend who he trusted.
“He pulled out his cell phone and it shouldn’t have happened,” she said.
“In one slip, in a moment of weakness, he showed these photos and he regretted it every day of his life.”
The defense attorney urged the jury to look past the grief of those who filed the lawsuit and focus on the matter before them.
“There is no doubt that these families have suffered,” she said.
“It’s indescribable. But in this case it’s not about the loss from the crash. It’s about the pictures.”
Chris Chester, whose wife Sara and daughter Payton also died in the crash, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which is seeking unspecified millions.
The county has already agreed to pay $2.5million (£2.05million) to settle a similar case brought by two families whose relatives died in the crash on January 26, 2020.
Ms Bryant and Mr Chester declined to reach an agreement.
Kobe Bryant, Gianna and other parents and players were flying to a girls basketball tournament when their chartered helicopter crashed in the fog.
Safety officials later blamed pilot error.
https://www.independent.ie/style/celebrity/photos-of-basketball-star-kobe-bryants-body-were-shared-for-a-laugh-court-hears-41904534.html Photos of basketball star Kobe Bryant’s body were “shared for laughs,” according to the court