After winning her lawsuit against Los Angeles County, Vanessa Bryant plans to donate her part to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna, that offers sports education to underserved and aspiring athletes.
After an 11-day trial, in which Vanessa detailed the moment she learned first responders took graphic images of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant’s remains and shared them with unauthorized people for entertainment purposes and not as part of the accident’s investigations, a Los Angeles federal jury ordered Los Angeles County to pay $16 million to Bryant and $15 million to Chris Chester, who lost his wife, Sarah Chester and their 13-year-old daughter Payton Chester.
Vanessa’s lawyer Luis Li spoke about the emotional distress the images taken on January 26, 2020, have had on the philanthropist and businesswoman. After the verdict, the attorney said Vanessa would donate her part “to shine a light on Kobe and Gigi’s legacy.”
“From the beginning, Vanessa Bryant has sought only accountability, but our legal system does not permit her to force better policies, more training or officer discipline,” Li told The Los Angeles Times.
“Those measures are the responsibility of the sheriff’s and fire departments — responsibilities that Mrs. Bryant’s efforts have exposed as woefully deficient, even giving amnesty to the wrongdoers,” he added.
Luis said that Bryant “never faltered, even when the county attempted to force her to submit to an involuntary psychiatric examination.”
According to Rolling Stone, the attorney showed the 10-member jury footage of Deputy Joey Cruz at the Baja California Bar & Grill in Norwalk, showing the images to a bartender who then walked away. Sitting near the bar, Ralph Mendez noticed that Cruz had photos of the crash site on his phone. After pondering what he should do next, Mendez decided to inform Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to avoid the images leaking online.
Li told The Los Angeles Times Bryant is “deeply grateful” to Ralph Mendez and Luella Weireter, who complained about the photos.
Vanessa Bryant reacts after jury awards $31 million over Kobe Bryant crash photos
Vanessa Bryant takes Natalia Bryant, Ciara and Monica to her trial against the Los Angeles County
Vanessa Bryant took the stand for the first time during her trial against L.A. County
Li said the pair “brought to light the decades-old practice of taking and sharing photos of accident and crime victims for no legitimate purpose.” Adding, “It is Mrs. Bryant’s hope that this important civil rights case will put to a stop this abhorrent and callous behavior.”
Last year, the Board of Supervisors agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle, but Vanessa and Chris refused the offer. After the lawsuit, it is now considered a misdemeanor for first responders to take unauthorized pictures of a death scene.
In 2020 a helicopter crash killed Kobe Bryant, 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, 13-year-old Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, 46, 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Christina Mauser, 38, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.