The Vanessa Bryant trial starts today in downtown Los Angeles. Bryant sued the county in September 2020, accusing county sheriff’s and fire department employees of taking and sharing photos of her loved ones’ remains from the crash site without having a legitimate reason for doing so.
Two days after the crash, sheriff’s deputy trainee Joey Cruz allegedly showed gruesome crash-site photos to a bartender at a bar in Norwalk, California. A patron at the bar, Ralph Mendez, heard about the photos from the bartender and later that night filed a complaint on the sheriff department’s website about what he heard.
The case reached a settlement of 1.25 million dollars offered to the other two families who lost loved ones during the accident. John, John’s wife Keri, and their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa Altobelli. Christina Mauser also died in the crash. She left behind a husband and three children.
However, Vanessa Bryant did not settle.
The trial will also focus on accountability towards the officials who leaked photos of the Kobe Bryant and Gi Gi helicopter crash.
Mira Hashmall, the county representative responded, “The County sympathizes with the losses suffered by the Bryant and Chester families. But this case is about whether the County publicly disseminated crash site photos in violation of their constitutional rights.” Mira Hashmall is a partner at the Miller Barondess law firm and lead outside counsel for the county.
Chris Chester lost his wife and daughter during the helicopter crash.
Additionally, they argue that they’ve upheld integrity since no photos were posted online. As well as they have not circulated in over 2 years. But other facts fall against them. For instance, Vanessa never got a chance to see the photos herself.
Not to mention the excessiveness of the unauthorized photos. On the evening of the crash, he allegedly texted the pictures to fellow deputy Michael Russell to a personal cell phone.
According to the lawsuit, Cruz “boasted that he had worked at the scene of the accident where Kobe Bryant had died” and was seen on the bar’s security camera “zooming in and out of the images while displaying them to the bartender.”
In March of 2021, the Vanessa Bryant trial involved accessibility to release the name of the deputies who leaked the crash photos.
Kobe Bryant’s widow won that case.
This allowed her and her legal team to add the names of the deputies to an amended complaint in her civil rights lawsuit against the county and Sherriff’s Department regarding the leaked crash photos of Kobe Bryant.
Vanessa Bryant and Chester previously sued the operator of the doomed helicopter company Island Express Helicopters for the crash. They reached a separate confidential settlement to end that case.
Two more deputies named in the Vanessa Bryant trial for Wednesday include, Rafael Meija, and Raul Versales.