Vanessa Bryant, wife of the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant, reportedly testified Friday, August 19, 2022 that she lives “in fear” of seeing leaked photos taken by first responders at the scene of the helicopter crash. Bryant’s testimony was in her invasion-of-privacy trial; in September 2020, Bryant filed a federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County claiming that sheriff deputies took photos of Kobe’s body and shared them in ways that didn’t pertain to the crash investigation. According to NBC News, there were times during Bryant’s testimony that she “wept so hard her body shook and she appeared to be hiccuping and gasping for breath.” Bryant said that she rushed out of her home after reading a Los Angeles Times report that grisly images — allegedly taken by law enforcement — were circulating. NBC News, explaining Bryant’s testimony, said she did so “so her surviving daughters wouldn’t see her cry.” “I felt like I wanted to run down the block and scream,” Bryant said on the stand, per the news outlet. “I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I feel.”
Kobe, who played almost exclusively for the Los Angeles Lakers over his two-decade career, died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. The couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, was also among the nine people who died in the crash. According to ESPN, Kobe and Gianna were traveling to an away basketball game on the helicopter. Another player and parent were with them on the aircraft, as was college baseball coach John Altobelli. The pilot was also among those killed. “I don’t ever want to see these photographs,” NBC News quoted Bryant as saying during her testimony. “I live in fear every day of seeing on social media and having these images pop up.”
Bryant’s civil suit claimed that a deputy showed the images to bar patrons, “identifying one of the individuals depicted as Kobe Bryant and bragging about how he had been at the crash site.” Her lawsuit alleged: “Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought that sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and members of the public have gawked at gratuitous images of her deceased husband and child, and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.” The civil complaint further stated: “Many social media users and internet trolls have claimed to have seen photos of the victims’ remains, and their accounts are plausible given the number of individuals who took and transmitted improper photos, the ease with which cell phone photos are electronically shared and saved in cloud storage, and the egregious failure to take reasonable steps to prevent dissemination of the photos.”
“In taking these photographs and at several points thereafter, members of the Sheriff’s and Fire Departments have chosen to act reprehensibly, and the departments’ responses to their employees’ conduct has demonstrated that they either do not understand or do not care about the pain they have caused,” court papers also said. The trial has been grueling for Vanessa since it began on Wednesday, August 10 2022. According to USA Today, she wept when her lawyer, Luis Li, presented his opening statement. “January 26, 2020, was and always will be the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life … The county did not cause the helicopter to crash,” Li reportedly said in his opening. “But county employees exploited the accident, took and shared pictures of Kobe’s and Gianna’s remains as souvenirs and betrayed the sacred trust we place in them. They poured salt in an unhealable wound. When they did that, they violated the Constitution. That is why we are here, you are here, we are all here in federal court today, to try to right that wrong.” On Thursday, August 11, 2022, Vanessa left the courtroom as a witness described the images in question, CNN reported.
Bryant’s testimony is ongoing.