"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken man." - Frederick Douglass

Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash Photos Lawsuit

Bryant
Courtesy of Joey Zanotti ( Flickr CC0)

On Thursday, a federal jury awarded $31 million in damages to Kobe Bryant’s widow and her co-plaintiff after finding the Los Angeles County Sheriffs and Fire departments accountable for violating their constitutional rights by recording and publishing graphic images of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed nine people.

The cause of the accident was a helicopter pilot who pushed the limit of bad weather, The pilot was irresponsible in knowing the conditions before he crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California

The photos showed a close-up of the deceased bodies of those who got killed. The photographs of their loved ones, according to Bryant and Chester, violated their privacy and caused them emotional suffering. Despite the county’s insistence that the pictures had been destroyed, every participant spoke of constantly being on the lookout for the pictures.

The jury heard testimony that was graphic and emotional for 11 days. During the trial, witnesses included a deputy who testified that he shared photos from the scene with two people while they were at a bar, another deputy who testified that he did the same while playing a video game, a deputy who airdropped photos from the scene to an unidentified person wearing firefighting gear, a fire captain who took comparable photos but turned in a department device lacking its hard drive, and a fire official who displayed the photos to other employees during a cocktail hour for an awards

The federal jury concluded that the absence of sufficient procedures and training at the Sheriff’s and Fire Departments was what led to the violation of the rights. The county fire department was found to be immune from liability for any long-standing, widespread practice or custom of taking illegal images, which was the only plaintiff claim that the jury did not find to be true. The sheriff’s office was held accountable for the same problem.

Bryant embraced her lawyers right away when the verdict was announced. Bryant then embraced her daughter Natalia in the front row while still sobbing. She departed the courtroom without speaking, but she did share a photo of herself, Kobe Bryant, and their daughter Gianna with the caption: “All for you I Love You! JUSTICE for KOBE and Gigi!”
Bryant
Courtesy of Luke Harold (Flickr PDM)

Rafael Mendez Jr., a resident of Cerritos, testified on Thursday that he filed a complaint on January 28, 2020, shortly after hearing a bartender describe how an off-duty deputy who had been at the scene of the crash that killed the Lakers star and eight other people two days earlier had shown him horrifying cell phone images of Kobe Bryant’s remains. The citizen filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office.

Weiter drove to a Malibu fire station a few days later to lodge a complaint. She was the second individual to complain to the county about law enforcement officers showing crash site images to the general public.

Mendez said to the 10-member jury, “I was shocked, disappointed, disgusted, and enraged. And I believed I had to act morally by informing the sheriff’s office of what I had witnessed.”

Weiter encouraged the jury to take into account the legislation, which only permits a finding against the county if it can be demonstrated that county regulations were inadequate to stop the distribution of the images or if there is a lengthy history of similar activity within the sheriff and fire departments.

Written by Daniel Murillo

Sources:

CNN: Jury awards plaintiffs $31M in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant crash photos

CBS: LASD deputy who captured photos of Kobe Bryant helicopter crash recounts scene

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Joey Zanotti’s Flickr Page -Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Luke Harold’s Flickr Page – Public Domain License

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