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#Kobe Bryant Widow Gets N6.8bn($16m) After Suing Government For Sharing Photos Of Husband’s Corpse

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Th Vanessa Bryant, widow of late basket ball star, Kobe Bryant has been awarded N6.8bn ($16m) in the lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and L.A. County Fire Department over alleged graphic photos from the site of the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and six more people in January 2020.

A federal jury on Wednesday, August 24, 2022, ruled that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and fire officials violated the civil rights of the loved ones of Bryant.

The jury also ordered that the county pay Chris Chester, Bryant’s fellow plaintiff in the suit whose wife, Sarah, and daughter, Payton, also were killed in the crash, $15 million.

Bryant and Chester both testified in the 10-day trial, telling how learning of the existence of the photos set back their grieving process and caused them to live in fear that the images will one day surface on social media.

Bryant said in her court testimony that as difficult as the court case was for her in that it aired private details about the accident and her grief, she found it worth it: “I’m willing to go through hell and back to get justice for my husband and daughter.”

Bryant, who was joined in court Wednesday by her oldest daughter, Natalia, cried when the verdict was read and then left the courthouse without addressing the media.

Laurie Levenson, a professor of law at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, called it a “significant verdict” in a case in which the county struggled with embarrassing trial revelations and the task of cross-examining the widow of one of the city’s most beloved sports stars.

“Emotional distress doesn’t have a calculator,” Levenson said in reference to the jury’s job in determining an award in this case. “The county would love to argue that the harm wasn’t that bad. That might fly if you don’t have Vanessa Bryant testifying.”

The verdict was a rejection of the defense advanced by county attorneys and officials, who argued in court that deputies and firefighters who used cellphones to take photos of the accident scene and then shared them — including at a bar and a gala — did so as part of their official duties.

The lawsuit concerned dozens of photos taken at the rugged crash site in the hills of Calabasas, Calif. It first emerged that deputies and firefighters were circulating such photos after a citizen filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office that a deputy was showing off an image of Kobe Bryant’s “decapitated body” at a bar.

Bryant and Chester each said that they had no confidence in county assurances that the photos, which included close-ups of body parts, had all been located and erased. The testimony last week of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who had offered his deputies “amnesty” in return for deleting the photos from their phones, appeared to show the limitation of the county’s knowledge as to whether the photos were still circulating.

After Villanueva said he believed the photos were all deleted, he was then confronted on the stand with the information that one of his deputies had Airdropped dozens of the images to a fire captain who was never identified.

The sheriff then said he was only “pretty sure” the photos were gone and would not resurface — but when challenged further by attorneys for Bryant and Chester, he appeared to throw up his hands on the matter. “God knows,” he said. “And that’s about it.”

A representative for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on the verdict Wednesday evening, saying that the department would issue a statement later. The Los Angeles County Fire Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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