Vanessa Bryant asked to take a psychological exam in crash photo costume

Los Angeles County wants judge to force Kobe Bryant’s widow to undergo a psychiatric assessment to prove she suffered emotional distress from leaked photos of the accident that killed her husband, daughter and seven other people.

Yet despite lawsuits by Vanessa Bryant and others close to those killed in the January 2020 helicopter crash, who allege footage of the scene was taken and shared by the Sheriff’s assistants and firefighters in the Los Angeles County, the county refuses to allow Sheriff Alex Villaneuva or County Fire Chief Daryl Osby to be deposed.

Bryant says she suffered severe emotional distress after seeing the photos, arguing that they made the loss of her husband, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, even worse.

County attorneys argued in a filing Friday that Bryant had to undergo an independent medical examination before the federal trial in February 2022. Asking the judge to compel the examination, they said she “cannot suffer of the distressed photos of the crash site which they have never seen and which have never been released publicly.

Bryant and other families of the crash victims filed lawsuits last fall seeking undisclosed damages for emotional distress and violation of their civil rights and privacy. Bryant said the sheriff had personally assured him that photographs taken at the crash site in Calabasas had not been released, although it was later revealed that a deputy had shown some of the photos in a bar.

“Unable to defend the indefensible conduct of its employees who took and shared gruesome photographs of the complainant’s relatives …, argued opposing the request.

Li also said it was “adding insult to injury” for the county to refuse to make the sheriff and fire chief available for routine testimony that surviving families have already taken. He also asked if the county’s five supervisors supported such a decision.

Skip Miller, partner at the Miller Barondess law firm, which represents LA County, said “the fact remains that no photo of the crash site taken by first responders has ever been released publicly.”

“We totally sympathize with the enormous loss suffered by Ms. Bryant,” Miller said. “But from a legal standpoint, we don’t think she could be harmed by something that didn’t happen.”

Although Villanueva has already been unsuccessful in the lawsuit, a Times investigation found he had ordered the photos removed. He said he did it to prevent their distribution and potential publication. A former captain warned the move could constitute an order to destroy evidence.

Bryant has identified four MPs who she says shared the grim photos: Raul Versales, Rafael Mejia, Joey Cruz and Michael Russell. Two Los Angeles County firefighters face dismissal proceedings and a third has been suspended due to the leaked footage.

Bryant’s lawsuit alleges Versales obtained several photographs of the crash scene on January 26, 2020, while stationed at a makeshift command post and shared them with members of the Sheriff’s Department , including Mejia and a detective.

Mejia shared the photos with Cruz, an intern in the department at the time, who then sent them to Russell, according to the lawsuit.

Two days later, while Cruz was at his mother’s, the legal records indicate that he showed the photos to his niece. That same day, at the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk, he spoke about working at the crash scene and was captured by the bar’s security camera zooming in on the footage while showing it to the bartender, according to the lawsuit.

The bartender described the footage to a group seated at a nearby table. One customer was so upset by what he heard that he filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Department, which The Times reviewed.

The agency tried to keep a lid on the episode, only opening an investigation after The Times revealed lawmakers had obtained the photos and were showing them to others.


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