LA County accuses Vanessa Bryant of being on ‘fishing expedition’

"Hypothetical harm is not a basis for a lawsuit," the county's filing said.

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The county of Los Angeles has fired back at the widow of Kobe Bryant after she posted documents online of the lawsuit she filed against the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Her complaint targets the four deputies who shared photos of the grim scene in Calabasas where her NBA icon husband and 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, as well as seven others, died in a helicopter crash last January.

As theGRIO reported, Vanessa Bryant is suing the county for negligence and invasion of privacy after several sheriff’s deputies took graphic photos of the crash scene and the victims and shared the images with others. In March, Bryant posted the legal documents on her Instagram in which she identifies the cops who allegedly shared the photos. Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales are the deputies named.

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Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Laine Bryant attend Tribeca Shorts: Animated Shorts curated by Whoopi Goldberg during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

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Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that between 25 and 100 photos were spread through text and phone sharing within two days of the crash. In response, the county suggested in a new court filing this week that Bryant is going too far with her “fishing expedition” in search of information that will support her case, USA Today reports.

“This straightforward case, with undisputed facts, has turned into a fishing expedition that is taking first responders away from their jobs — and subjecting them to public harassment and threats,” said a filing submitted in federal court by attorneys for the county. “Defendants are eager to have their day in Court and put an end to this.”

Bryant’s lawsuit seeks to “make an example” of the deputies who shared graphic photos of the victims’ remains “without any legitimate governmental purpose.” She has asked the court to extend the cutoff date for the discovery of evidence in the case, as she wants to conduct witness depositions, according to the report. The current deadline is August but Bryant wants it pushed back to February. 

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Basketball player Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa at the official after party for the 2004 World Music Awards, September 15, 2005 at Body English in the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

“Plaintiff has dedicated countless hours to meaningless discovery disputes and posting recklessly about the Defendants on social media—all while taking the position that her 50 depositions cannot begin until she has every single document in the County’s possession,” the county’s filing stated. “That is not diligence. There is no basis for modifying the scheduling order.”

The county said “only government personnel and one friend saw the photographs in question.”

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Bryant “knows that only one non-governmental individual saw accident site photographs depicting human remains,” the county’s filing states. “Because of how (Bryant) phrased her interrogatories, responses include names of first responders who took accident site photographs not depicting human remains and those who shared accident site photographs with other personnel and agencies (like NTSB) for official purposes. Plaintiff knows there has been no public dissemination.”

Bryant’s attorneys have noted that at least 18 sheriff and fire employees “took, shared and/or possessed” photos at the scene of the crash, while 66 county employees have useful information about the misconduct, according to the report. 

“The accident was now close to 1.5 years ago, and there has been no public dissemination” of the photos, the county’s filing said. “Hypothetical harm is not a basis for a lawsuit. Nor is it a basis for `no stone left unturned’ discovery against public entities and first responders.”

Bryant is seeking damages for mental anguish and emotional distress. Her claim documents that the National Transportation Safety Board and county coroners’ office were the only parties authorized to take photos of the scene. The deputies had “no investigative purpose” to take the photos and did so “for their own personal purposes,” according to the suit.

theGRIO’s Matthew Allen and Biba Adams contributed to this report. 

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