Vanessa Bryant's attorney wants citizens who complained to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department about Kobe crash scene photos being shared to testify in upcoming trial
- Vanessa Bryant's and Los Angeles County's legal teams were unable to settle in December.
- A trial will move forward in her lawsuit against LA County staff who are accused of sharing Kobe crash photos.
The private citizen complaints were made to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department and allege that personnel from those departments shared photos of the crash site to people at a bar and to others at an awards ceremony.
In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant sued the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the fire department, the county, and eight individual officers, following reports that first responders took and shared photos of the January 2020 crash site. Bryant is accusing the first responders of "negligence" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of her right to privacy" and is suing for undisclosed damages.
In a series of court filings on Tuesday, Bryant's attorney and the county legal teams said that after meetings they were unable to reach a settlement. A three-day trial — which her team has argued is too short — is set to begin on February 22, 2022. Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected Los Angeles County's move to throw out the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Bryant's attorneys proposed a witness list for the trial, which included some of the more than 30 Los Angeles County Sheriff's and Fire Department staff who have been deposed under oath in the case.
Bryant's attorney also moved to ask the court to admit the eyewitness testimony of Ralph Mendez, Jr. and Luella Weireter, the two private citizens who submitted complaints alleging Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash photos were being shown in public.
"The testimony relates to, respectively, (1) the conduct and statements of Defendant Joey Cruz on the evening he displayed victims' remains photos to a bar patron and bartender Victor Gutierrez; and (2) the statements of attendees at the Golden Mike awards who were present at the time Tony Imbrenda showed off photos of the victims' remains," Bryant's attorney Luis Li wrote in a filing.
Joey Cruz, a former deputy trainee at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, is accused of showing crash site photos to bartender Victor Gutierrez as well as patron Ralph Mendez, Jr. two days after the crash, per the lawsuit.
Bryant's suit also alleges that former Los Angeles County Fire Dept. PIO Tony Imbrenda referenced and showed the photos at the 2020 Golden Mike awards less than a month after the crash, which Luella Weireter was attending.
The county objected to the requests, claiming, "Neither Mendez nor Weireter has seen any crash site photos."
"They either 'overheard' something from 20 feet away or were told by someone what they had been told by someone else. That is not proper evidence," Los Angeles County attorneys wrote.
Attorneys for Bryant and Los Angeles County could not immediately be reached for comment.
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