LA County sheriff ordered to testify in Vanessa Bryant lawsuit

LA County sheriff ordered to testify in Vanessa Bryant lawsuit
© Photo by James Anderson/National Transportation Safety Board via Getty Images

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva will testify in a lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant alleging that deputies shared photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick ruled that both Villanueva and Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby would be ordered to testify as both have "unique first-hand, non-repetitive knowledge" about the case, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bryant sued last year, saying she and her family endured emotional distress after deputies shared photos of human remains at the crash scene where her husband Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others died.

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Attorneys representing the county, however, argued that the sheriff did not have any relevant information that could not be obtained elsewhere. 

"Their testimony will not change the fact that there is no evidence any photos taken by County first responders have ever been publicly disseminated,” Skip Miller, an attorney for the county, said in a statement to the Times.

"I said, if you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area," the Times quoted Bryant testifying of her request to the sheriff in a deposition earlier this month.

Per Bryant's request, Villanueva did secure the area and told Bryant, "All is good. The area is secure," the Times noted.

But reports soon surfaced that photos of the scene had been taken and shared after a citizen complained that a young deputy had shown them to patrons at a bar just weeks after the crash.

“Not only do I have to grieve to the loss of my husband and child, but for the rest of my life I’m going to have to fear that these photographs of my husband and child will be leaked,” Bryant said, per the Times.

“Sheriff Alex Villanueva looks forward to offering his testimony and bringing clarity to the decisions he made which successfully led to no pictures allegedly taken ever seeing the light of day,” a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement to The Hill on Wednesday. 

The Times reported that Villanueva allegedly instructed those involved to delete the evidence of sharing the photos, according to a deputy's testimony. That deputy said that then-Capt. Jorge Valdez and then-Lt. John Satterfield, both of whom have since been promoted, communicated the sheriff's request. Valdez and Satterfield say they did not recall the sheriff asking that of them.