THE LA cops who allegedly leaked grisly photos of Kobe Bryant’s horror chopper crash tragedy CAN be named, a judge has ruled.
They shared photos of “dead children, their parents and coaches” taken at the scene, according to a lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant in Los Angeles.
Attorneys for the four sheriff’s deputies had wanted to keep their names and ranks sealed over fears their computers would be compromised.
They claimed “hackers may attempt to seek out and gain access to the individual deputies’ devices to locate any photographs and publish them,” state court documents.
However, US District Judge John F. Walter ruled last night that argument is “totally inconsistent with their position that such photographs no longer exist”.
The ruling means Vanessa’s lawyers can add their names from an internal affairs probe into their conduct to an amended complaint in her civil rights lawsuit against LA county and the Sheriff’s Department.
The basketball star’s widow, 37, has alleged members of the LASD shared multiple unauthorized images of the crash.
In his ruling, Judge Walter found that allegations of police officer misconduct should not be hidden from public scrutiny, reports the LA Times.
“Indeed where the case involves allegations of police misconduct, the public has a vested interest in assessing the truthfulness of the allegations of official misconduct, and whether agencies that are responsible for investigating and adjudicating complaints of misconduct have acted properly and wisely,” he wrote.
Local court rules give the county four days to appeal the ruling.
Vanessa’s lawyers blacked out the deputies’ names in their filing, pending the court’s decision on whether the complaint should be sealed.
Her attorney Luis Li said: “Transparency promotes accountability. We look forward to presenting Mrs. Bryant’s case in open court.”
The lawsuit seeks damages for negligence and invasion of privacy, alleging deputies and firefighters took and shared graphic images of the January 26, 2020 crash.
The horrific crash in Calabasas, California, killed Lakers legend Kobe, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others.
The suit alleges an internal affairs report found one deputy took 25 to 100 photos at the scene and that photos spread quickly by text and phone-sharing technology over the next 48 hours among deputies who then showed them to others.
The suit alleges that several deputies shared images from the crash site, as did several county firefighters who were witnessed snapping images on personal phones.
The suit notes that one Los Angeles County fire captain has said that he received photos from multiple firefighters at the scene.
The county has claimed that all the photos have since been deleted.
In the bid to unmask the deputies, Vanessa’s legal team earlier said that LA County could not cite a single case where a police officer was able to remain anonymous when being sued for a civil rights violation.
Luis Li said that the case the county used as an example of why the deputies should be allowed to remain anonymous involved victims in a sexual assault case.
“Defendants try to equate the Deputy Defendants who shared photos of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s remains with victims of sexual harassment and other abuse,” Li wrote in earlier court papers, according to The Times.
Lawyers for LA County, however, argued that the deputies’ identities should remain anonymous as they may become targets for hackers if their names are made public.
“Not sealing the Deputy Defendants’ names increases the risk that hackers will seek out and try to gain access to the individual deputies’ devices to locate any photographs and publish them to the public,” county lawyers wrote in court docs.
“Plantiff should want to [seal] for this same reason.”
A National Transportation Safety Board later determined that the crash was caused by unsafe flying conditions, and the helicopter pilot’s decision to fly in extreme fog.
“The probable cause in this accident was the pilot’s decision to continue flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss of control,” the board wrote.
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“Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s likely self-induced pressure and his plan continuation bias which adversely affected his decision-making and Island Express Helicopters Inc.’s inadequate review of the safety and processes.”
Experts analyzing the crash suggested that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, may have felt pressure to get his famous passenger where he needed to go.
Still, the report said that the pilot should have been aware that flying in the conditions in Calabasas at the time of the crash was not safe.
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