In the witness stand in her federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County, Vanessa Bryant recalled being at home with her family, breastfeeding her 7-month-old daughter Capri, when she learned of a Los Angeles Times report about county sheriffs sharing the graphic images. .
“I just remember I didn’t want to respond because the girls were in the room,” she testified, rising with emotion. I said, ‘I can’t do this. “…and I got out of the house and ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn’t see me. I wanted to run…down the block and just scream. I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I feel.”
Bryant admitted to getting nervous on the stage and cried when she talked about her late daughter Gianna. She had to pull herself together as she described the day it took Gianna’s body to be found in the wreckage. She was crying remembering that she looked to the NTSB secure site to identify the clothes and other personal items of the victims.
Bryant recounted her interaction after the incident with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who informed her of the deaths of her husband and daughter. I collapsed at times when remembering the events.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Bryant. Is there anything I can do for you?” Bryant recalls Villanueva’s question.
She recalled telling him, “If you can’t get my kids back, please secure the area. I’m worried about the paparazzi.”
Bryant said the mayor assured her he would, but he stayed in the room. She urged him to leave and deal with her request immediately.
According to Bryant, Villanueva got out and back, telling her he had secured temporary restrictions on flying over the area through the Federal Aviation Administration.
Bryant testified that she had to remove the comments from her Instagram feed after distributing the photos. Her attorney, Lewis Lee, offered a comment sent to her shortly after the Los Angeles Times story was published.
“Emma leaked Kobe’s body,” the message said.
Defense attorneys indicated, in court filings, that they plan to deal with Bryant’s private Instagram posts, including one in which she was dressed for Halloween as Cruella de Vil, the villain portrayed in Disney films.
“They say there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Well, I’d like to add one more…revenge. — Cruella,” the caption read.
Lee asked Bryant about this position. She testified that the choice of outfit was consistent with other Halloween outfits she was wearing, including the wicked witch from “The Wizard of Oz” and Darth Vader.
Bryant said she wears a bad character costume to allow her daughters to become little girls.
Sharif testifies that he devised a “deal” to ensure that the photos were deleted
During questioning, the defense sought to show that Bryant had other sources of tension beyond the controversy over the photo, including a lawsuit her mother brought against her. Bryant testified that her mother “thought she was worth the money”.
Defense attorney Mira Hashmol told Bryant that her mother “accused you of fraud… elder abuse, that must have been stressful.”
“It definitely hurt,” Bryant said, adding that she also felt betrayed.
“I’m sure that was stressful,” Hashmol asked.
“Yes, it wasn’t easy,” Bryant replied, adding that the lawsuit had been settled and had not caused her the kind of constant fear she had about the accident scene photos coming out.
“It was stressful at the time, but my mother gave birth to me. She raised me. And like I said, it’s resolved,” Bryant said of the lawsuit.
The defense pressed Bryant about whether it was her goal to never see the photos – which Los Angeles County claims her actions were accomplished.
“I would have liked someone to take back all the photos and investigate” who shared them, Bryant said.
The first witness in the defense, Sheriff Villanueva, testified about the necessity of dealing with the leaked photos. He said that opening an official investigation would invoke union legal rules that could include lawyers, delays, and provide more opportunities to publish the photos.
“There’s one way we get it right away,” Villanueva said, referring to the scene, so he devised what he called a “deal.”
In his testimony, Villanueva said the deputies involved in the leak would prove the photos had been deleted and would get a note about their behavior in the scorecard.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys sought to prove that handling of the episode limited Internal Affairs from a subsequent investigation of the alleged wrongdoing.
“You can’t take responsibility and (also) risk taking the photos out,” Villanueva testified. “And we chose right.”
Bryant previously testified that she was living in fear because the official investigation was unable to confirm the account and destruction of all the crash site photos.
Law enforcement officials described how they shared the photos
Chester, who filed the lawsuit with Bryant, testified Thursday, saying he lives in fear that graphic images of his loved ones’ bodies may one day resurface.
Chester took the stage several days after testimony from law enforcement officials — some of whom offered an apology, detailing the graphic nature of the photos, explaining why they were taken and sharing and why orders were given to delete them.
Bryant was in the courtroom listening to the testimony of every witness except for the coroner. I walked out of the courtroom suddenly when a waiter testified about seeing the pictures.
Villanueva is expected to follow on the podium, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Anthony Maroney.
Kobe Bryant, 41, and Gianna Bryant, 13, were among nine people killed on January 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash on a hillside in Calabasas, California.
They were traveling to attend a girls’ basketball game at the Bryant Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks when the helicopter crashed, leaving no survivors.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.
“Tv expert. Writer. Extreme gamer. Subtly charming web specialist. Student. Evil coffee buff.”