Judge rules in favor of Vanessa Bryant in crash photos lawsuit

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LOS ANGELES — A federal judge in California has ruled that Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, can obtain the names of four Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who allegedly shared graphic photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, their daughter Gianna and seven others.

An effort by Los Angeles County lawyers to keep the deputies’ names under seal was rejected Monday by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The ruling means the names and details from an internal affairs investigation of the deputies could be added to Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against the county and the Sheriff’s Department. The county, however, can appeal the decision.

Kobe Bryant and the others were killed Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were aboard crashed west of Los Angeles in the hills of Calabasas.

The Times later reported that an investigation found deputies shared photos of victims’ remains. Vanessa Bryant sued, seeking damages for negligence and invasion of privacy.

County lawyers argued that the deputies’ names should remain under seal because releasing them would make it easy for hackers to locate their personal information and addresses.

The judge wrote that Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s “promise to publicly release the (internal affairs bureau) report after the conclusion of the investigation undermines Defendants’ purported concern in the disclosure of the limited excerpts at issue here.”

The judge also wrote that the public has a vested interest in assessing the truthfulness of allegations of police misconduct.