Vanessa Bryant’s legal battle against Los Angeles County over the gruesome helicopter crash photos allegedly shared by first responders begins Wednesday.
Bryant, 40, claims deputies circulated graphic photos of the remains of her husband, NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant after he was killed in a helicopter crash with their 13-year-old daughter and seven others in January 2020.
The mom — who shared three other daughters with the hoops star — alleges LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Joey Cruz shared images of Kobe’s corpse to bar patrons “without any legitimate governmental purpose.”
Bryant also claims in her suit that she has the constitutional right to the images.
“Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought that sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and members of the public have gawked at gratuitous images of her deceased husband and child,” according to the lawsuit.
According to court documents obtained by The Post, witnesses who could be called to take the stand include Bryant, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and LA Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka, who was one of Kobe Bryant’s closest friends.
Bryant is seeking unspecified millions in compensation for negligence, emotional stress and invasion of privacy.
The father and daughter were among nine people who died in the crash on January 26, 2020, just outside Calabasas, Calif. The basketball legend was 41.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, pilot “spatial disorientation” was the likely cause of the tragedy.
US District Judge John Walter consolidated Bryant’s lawsuit with a similar claim filed by Orange County financial adviser Chris Chester, who also lost his wife Sarah and their 13-year-old daughter, Payton, in the accident.
Gianna Bryant and Payton were teammates in the Mamba Sports Academy basketball team that was coached by Kobe Bryant.
Attorneys representing Los Angeles County wrote in a trial brief that there is no evidence that the images were shared publicly. They further argued that since the images were never in the media or posted online, Bryant and Chester cannot sue for “hypothetical harm” over their fear that the pictures could resurface in the future.
“There is no evidence that County employees have a ‘persistent and widespread’ practice of sharing ‘death images’ within LASD or LACFD,” the county’s attorneys wrote in the affidavit.
“This was the first time LASD or LACFD confronted allegations of improper photo sharing, and they took appropriate action. Every action was aimed at preventing harm, not causing it.”
Attorneys representing Los Angeles County wrote in a trial brief that there is no evidence that the images were shared publicly.
Sheriff Villanueva testified during a deposition that he told his personnel to “get rid” of the photos to make sure the gruesome pictures were not circulated, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
“I can tell you this — that the problem at hand was images getting out and harming the families,” Villanueva said.
“I make decisions based on the immediate threat, which is a harm that those pictures can cause to the family. I don’t make a decision based on I might get sued six months later. That’s preposterous.”
Judge Walter indicated that the trial would take about a week and would be broken up into two phases, according to City News Service.
The first phase of the trial would address Bryant’s federal claims that the taking and dissemination of photos by county personnel violated their constitutional rights. The state law claims would be argued in the second phase.