Vanessa Bryant Cries in Court on First Day of Kobe Bryant Crash Trial Against L.A. County

Vanessa Bryant is suing L.A. County's fire and sheriff's departments for allegedly sharing unauthorized photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and seven others.

By Gabrielle Chung Aug 11, 2022 11:09 AMTags
Watch: Vanessa Bryant Honors Late Daughter Gianna on Her 16th Birthday

Vanessa Bryant is having her day in court.

The 40-year-old was in the gallery of a federal courtroom on Aug. 10 as opening statements were made in her trial against Los Angeles County, which she is suing after several of its sheriff's deputies and firefighters shared unauthorized photos from the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others.

Vanessa sobbed in her seat as her attorney, Luis Li, claimed that county employees "exploited the accident" by taking and sharing photos of Kobe and Gianna's remains "as souvenirs," per Rolling Stone, who was in the courtroom for the hearing. "They poured salt in an unhealable wound," Li said. "They took close-ups of limbs, of burnt flesh. It shocks the conscience."

According to the outlet, Li also played an audio recording of a detective describing the photos as images depicting "piles of meat."

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The county of Los Angeles argues Vanessa's lawsuit is without legal merit, per the Aug. 3 defendants' trial brief obtained by E! News.

The trial comes almost two years after Vanessa first filed her suit against Los Angeles County officials over the photos. In the suit, previously obtained by E! News, Vanessa claimed that multiple sheriff's deputies snapped photos of the crash scene and forwarded them to others, one of whom was seen on surveillance footage from a Southern California bar showing his phone to a worker there.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Shutterstock

According to the lawsuit, authorities were alerted to the existence of the images after a witness at the bar filed an online complaint to the sheriff's department. The suit also alleged that when Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva found out about the photos, he ordered deputies to delete them and assured there'd be no further disciplinary actions taken so long as everyone complied.

Vanessa is seeking damages for emotional distress over the photos.

In November, a U.S. magistrate judge ordered Vanessa and her therapist to turn over documents related to her treatment before and after the crash as part of her claim.

In a statement at the time, Skip Miller, partner of the Miller Barondess law firm and outside counsel for L.A. County, told E! News, "The County continues to have nothing but the deepest sympathy for the enormous grief Ms. Bryant suffered as a result of the tragic helicopter accident. Our motion for access to her medical records, however, is a standard request in lawsuits where a plaintiff demands millions of dollars for claims of emotional distress. I have an obligation to take this step to defend the County."

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