A federal judge ruled in favor of Vanessa Bryant’s request to obtain the names of L.A. Sheriff’s deputies who took and shared photos of Kobe Bryant’s fatal 2020 helicopter crash.
Judge John F. Walter said the defendants could not “demonstrate compelling reasons” to keep the deputy names private and could not identify a past civil rights case where officer names and ranks were withheld, according to details shared by Bryant on social media.
Now Bryant’s lawyers can add the deputy names in the descriptions of their civil suit against L.A. County, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
The defendants argued that there is concern over “vitriol and social media attacks” with the case being public, but the judge ruled it did not “outweigh the public’s strong interest in access.”
The defendants also argued that making the deputy names public could lead to a hack that reveals photos of the crash, but the judge said that is inconsistent with the Sheriff’s claims that the photos no longer exist.
Bryant first filed the lawsuit in September of 2020, claiming deputies on-scene shared unauthorized photos of the plane crash that killed Kobe, their daughter Gianna Bryant and seven other passengers on Jan. 26.
Villanueva previously said that eight deputies took photos of the crash scene and while the department’s no-photo policy does not extend to accidents, the sheriff asked them to delete the photos.
Bryant seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement. “The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant’s requests for information saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any inquiry and had no legal obligation to do so. It’s now for a court to tell the department what its obligations are.”