LOS ANGELES – Vanessa Bryant found a measure of closing in February 2020 after A sentimental monument rich in tribute Her late husband, a basketball star copy print.
Then, days later, while relaxing at home with her friends and young daughters, Ms. Bryant learned that deputy sheriffs had privately shared photos of the remains of victims at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Mr. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter. GuyanaWith seven other people.
Ms Bryant fled her home, and testified in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday.
“I felt like I wanted to run down the block and just scream,” she said. “But I could not escape. I cannot escape from my body.”
Friday’s testimony was a pivotal moment in a The trial stems from Ms. Bryant’s lawsuit against Los Angeles County for handling of crash site photos. On the eighth day of the trial in a bright and new federal court in downtown Los Angeles, jurors heard Ms. Bryant describe her grief for the first time in court; She later cast light on her family’s business ventures under questioning by the district attorney. Immediately after she testified, Alex Villanueva, the mayor of Los Angeles County, took the witness stand and underwent a rare round of public questioning.
Mr. Bryant dies at the age of 41 Amazed sports fans all over the world. He was an NBA icon and record holder, leading his Los Angeles Lakers to five championships and spending his entire 20-year career playing for the same team.
For Mrs. Bryant, it was a passion.”dad girlWith big dreams for their families, she said on Friday. Her voice broke as she told stories about their home life — how she and her husband, whom she married at a young age, even competed at playing mini golf, and how he planned to travel the world with her after he retired.
She testified that the idea of publicly circulating graphic images of Mr. Bryant and their daughter left her feeling helpless, violated and betrayed. She was wearing a black jacket over a black dress, her long dark hair sweeping across her face, she paused frequently to cry.
She is seeking compensation for the emotional distress she says resulted from officials from the Los Angeles County fire and sheriff’s departments carelessly sharing the photos.
In the lawsuit, Ms. Bryant accused Los Angeles County, as well as the sheriff’s departments and the fire department and individual employees, of negligence and breach of privacy. She said in court filings that close-up photos of the remains were “passed on to at least 28 Sheriff’s Department machines and at least dozens of firefighters,” including at a bar, and a party where Los Angeles Fire Department communications staff were greeted on social media. .
Among them were Mr. Bryant and Gianna killed nine people When their helicopter crashes into a hill near Calabasas, California, as they travel from Orange County to a youth basketball tournament in a northwest Los Angeles suburb. Most likely the cause of the crash isbad decision“For flying at excessive speeds in foggy weather, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The trial focuses on a public confrontation between two giant powers in the country’s second largest city. On one side is Mrs. Bryant, a fierce guardian of her husband’s legacy and mother of three surviving daughters from Mr. Bryant. On the other hand, Mr. Villanueva, whose agency was implicated in it Enough scandals The county board of supervisors is asking voters The ability to remove him from office.
Ms. Bryant attended each day of the trial, which began on August 10. She arrives and leaves each day in a black SUV outside the building, surrounded by photographers and television crews who are not allowed to record proceedings inside a US District Court judge. Courtroom John F. Walter is on the seventh floor.
Joining Ms Bryant in the lawsuit is Christopher Chester, whose wife Sarah, 45, and daughter Payton, 13, died in the accident. The families of two other victims settled with $1.25 million each last year.
Mr. Chester testified on Thursday about the impact of his prolonged grief, and how the discovery of the images stymied his progress.
Los Angeles County and law enforcement officials acknowledged sharing the photos but said they were soon deleted and never entered the public domain. County attorneys said taking photos of crash scenes is a common and necessary practice for investigations.
Ms Bryant’s lawyers argue that the Sheriff’s administration deleted the photos as part of a “cover-up” and that MPs were told they could avoid discipline by doing so.
Mr. Villanueva admitted that he had offered “a pardon” to the deputies for submitting the photographs. He said he had a choice between curbing the spread of the photos and starting a lengthy internal investigation process, during which MPs are entitled to be represented by their unions.
He testified, “There is no evidence about this.” “We made the right decision.”
On Friday, Ms Bryant described her arrival at the mayor’s station in Malibu, near the crash site, where she said lawmakers “just stared at her” when she asked questions. When the mayor himself came to confirm the deaths, she said he brought a publicist with him, whom Ms. Bryant asked to leave the room.
She said she openly told Mr Villanueva: “If you cannot return my husband and my child, please make sure no one takes pictures of them. Please secure the area.”
She said it wasn’t until February that she knew it didn’t happen – from another source, not from the sheriff’s oath.
Earlier in the trial, Rafael Mendes Jr., who was a patron at the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk in January 2020, testified that a waiter walked there to his table and said a regular waiter who was a deputy mayor had shared graphic images from the crash site. This prompted Mr. Mendez to file a complaint through the Sheriff’s Department’s website.
“I was in disbelief,” Mr. Mendes testified last week. “I was disappointed, disgusted and angry.”
His complaint became a topic Los Angeles Times report Weeks after the accident.
Mrs. Bryant said she was up at night afraid that the pictures would appear on the Internet, and that her other daughters were with Mr. Bryant-Capri, 3; Bianca, 5; And Natalia, 19 – they can be seen.
She said she started having panic attacks after learning about the pictures.
“I live in fear every day of being on social media and having these images pop up,” she said.
The county sought to counter allegations of emotional distress by asking Ms Bryant about glimpses of her life that she shares on social media. In the process, they provided a rare window into the famous family business and home operations. After Judge Walter allowed the District to submit photos from Ms Bryant’s Instagram account, she did so 15.5 million followerslawyers on both sides showed pictures of him.
District Attorney Mira Hashmol asked Ms Bryant about her posts promoting the latest releases from Granity Studios, her husband’s production company. I also asked about a series of trusts and corporations that are now under the control of Ms. Bryant.
“You seem to be, above all, manipulating a business empire,” said Mrs. Hashmol.
Mrs. Bryant replied, “I won’t say juggling.”
Ms. Hashmol also asked Ms. Bryant about other sources of the distressing images, such as the media. She suggested that for someone who prefers to keep many personal things private, it must have been difficult to experience in which so many of those memories were broadcast in a public forum.
“I am willing to go to hell and go back to get justice for my family,” Ms Bryant said.
Jonathan Abrams And the Douglas Moreno Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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