Vanessa Bryant, widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, plans to donate the $16 million in proceeds she won this week in her invasion of privacy lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles to her late husband’s sports foundation, her attorney said Thursday.
A federal jury reached the verdict Wednesday, siding with Bryant and her attorneys, that Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters invaded her privacy and brought emotional distress after taking and sharing photos of the bodies of her husband and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna following the fatal crash that killed them and seven others in January 2020.
Chris Chester, Bryant’s co-plaintiff, was awarded $15 million for photos of his deceased wife and daughter, who were among the nine killed in the helicopter crash.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Bryant said she would give her portion “to shine a light on Kobe and Gigi’s legacy” to the non-profit Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which offers sports education to underserved athletes.
“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,” her attorney Luis Li said in a statement to 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.”
Li added that Bryant “never faltered, even when the county attempted to force her to submit to an involuntary psychiatric examination.”
In September 2020, Bryant filed the suit in U.S. District Court, claiming that the photos of the deceased allegedly taken by authorities at the crash scene and then shared at various events have caused her emotional distress.
Eyewitnesses Ralph Mendez and Luella Weireter complained to the Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department and reported that deputies and firefighters in Norwalk and Universal City were sharing the graphic images.
Bryant’s attorney said she is “deeply grateful” to the two private citizens who came forward.
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 that Bryant hopes the civil rights case will stop future “abhorrent and callous behavior.”
The lawyers said it is unknown how far the images spread because the county did not conduct a proper investigation.
During the trial, Bryant reportedly said she lives in “fear every day of being on social media and these popping up.”
“I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up,” Bryant said.
Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed an invasion of privacy bill after the fatal accident, called the “Kobe Bryant Act.” The bill makes it illegal for first responders to share photos of a deceased individual at a crime scene “for any other purpose other than official law enforcement purpose.”