Vanessa Bryant nor anyone else will hopefully ever see her late husband and daughter’s crash scene photos on the internet. She was awarded $28.8 million in a final settlement over pictures that Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies took and shared with each other after Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others perished in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California in 2020.
The photos were taken by members of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and fire departments. The same members who responded to the horrific crash scene after Bryant’s helicopter went down on its way to his daughter’s basketball game. Some were shown to people at an awards banquet while another was shared at a bar where a bartender and patrons saw it.
Bryant sued to keep the photos from being electronically transferred in the hopes that they would not become widespread across the internet. Her coplaintiff in the suit was Chris Chester, whose wife Sarah and daughter Payton were also killed in the crash. He received $19.9 million in the settlement.
The $28.8 million is the final payout in the case and includes a settlement of $15 million already awarded to Bryant in 2021.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Luis Li, Bryant’s attorney, said in a statement. “She fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”
A Los Angeles Times investigation a month after the crash revealed that at least eight sheriff’s deputies had taken and shared the photos, which were ordered to be destroyed. But then LA county sheriff Charlie Villanueva admitted at least one photo had been shared outside the department.
The photos have yet to surface online. But there was no forensic follow-up to ensure that the pictures were removed from all devices that the deputies owned, per the Times.
Bryant and Chester filed their lawsuit in September 2020.
When Venessa Bryant was told of her husband and daughter’s death by Villanueva at the Lost Hills police station, she asked him to ensure that paparazzi would not have access to the crash site to prohibit any photos.
Instead, they were taken by members of the department. The deputy who showed them at the bar passed them around to patrons until one was so disgusted by the behavior he reported it.
“I expected them to have more compassion — respect,” Venessa Bryant said during trial testimony. “My husband and my daughter deserve dignity.”
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