Kobe Bryant’s widow can obtain names of deputies who shared crash photos, judge rules

Decision means names and details from investigation could be added to Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against Los Angeles county

A federal judge in California has ruled that Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball player Kobe Bryant’s widow, 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 on Monday by US 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 on 26 January 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 the 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.