Vanessa Bryant overturns court block on naming police who leaked photos of Kobe helicopter crash

California district court points to inconsistency in officials’ claims and cites public interest

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 09 March 2021 14:02
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A court has overturned a block on the naming of four Los Angeles County police officers who Vanessa Bryant claims shared “unauthorised” photos of the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, and their daughter.

Judge John F. Walter, of the US District Court for the Central District of California, ruled on Monday that the officers names could be disclosed in the case filed by Ms Bryant.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the court ruled that there was “a strong presumption of access as a starting point” and that Los Angeles county did not show a compelling reason to seal the officers’ names in court filings.

The county, which has four days to appeal the decision, said the officers could be targeted for their roles in the response to the helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Mr Bryant in January 2020.

Judge Walter found that the allegations against the officers amounted to claims of misconduct, and should not be sealed from public view.

Read more: Kobe Bryant crash: Everything we know and the unanswered questions

“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,” said the judge.

The ruling added that while concerns around the officers’ welfare were taken into consideration, “such concerns, by themselves, are not sufficient to outweigh the public’s strong interest in access.”

Judge Walter also described the county’s claims as “inconstant” — having claimed that photos of the crash site do not exist, but that hackers could target the officers for the same material.

Luis Li, an attorney for Ms Bryant, told the LA Times that “transparency promotes accountability. We look forward to presenting Ms Bryant’s case in open court.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for negligence and invasion of privacy, and claims that Los Angeles officers shared images of the crash site — which were later shared online. Although all photos were said to have been deleted.

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