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U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick ruled that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Fire Chief Daryl Osby must provide pretrial testimony as part of Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against L.A. County for invasion of privacy and negligence.
Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today reported the sheriff and fire chief will be asked questions under oath regarding pictures that were taken of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant, as well as seven others.
Vanessa Bryant said employees of the sheriff’s and fire department shared photos of her husband and daughter, and Eick ruled Villanueva and Osby have “unique firsthand, non-repetitive knowledge relevant to the issues in this case.”
It wasn’t the only ruling from Eick, as he also granted Bryant access to the phone records of retired fire captain Brian Jordan. The county fire department previously criticized him for taking photographs with “no legitimate business purpose” that “only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip.”
The county has been trying to force Bryant to undergo a psychiatric exam to show she suffered emotional distress from the crash and not from the sharing of the photographs.
Bryant’s attorneys said Villanueva and Osby “know a great deal” about the photograph issue.
“Villanueva personally promised Mrs. Bryant that he would protect the remains of her husband and daughter from desecration by unauthorized photographers,” says a document submitted by the plaintiff’s attorneys.
It continued, saying, “He personally described the sharing of photos of human remains by law enforcement officers as a problem as old as the Polaroid camera, and he noted that police officers keep so-called ‘death books’ of such photos.”
As for Osby, Bryant’s attorneys said he was told five days after the crash that two members of his department had photographs but “waited to conduct any meaningful investigation of those reports until March,” and, as a result, “photos were turned into cocktail-hour entertainment at a public awards show.”
The trial for the case is set to begin in February.