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County Claims Vanessa Bryant Lacks Legal Basis To Sue Deputies Over Crash Site Photos In New Filing

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Attorneys for Los Angeles County say Vanessa Bryant has no legal basis to sue four deputies accused of sharing unauthorized graphic photos taken at the site of a helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna and seven others, according to court filings obtained Monday.

In her lawsuit, Bryant alleges that deputies used their personal cell phones to "take and share gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches," even after Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured her that the scene was being secured by his deputies.

The suit, which seeks damages for negligence and invasion of privacy, claims that one deputy took between 25 and 100 photos which had "no conceivable investigatory purpose and were focused directly on the victims' remains," and shared those photos with other deputies and at least one civilian friend.

The county responded Friday to Bryant's suit in federal court, arguing that her claims would not stand.

"The county does not condone this showing of accident site photographs and has taken corrective personnel actions accordingly," attorney's for the county said in a filing. "That does not mean, however, that plaintiff has viable legal claims. The two seminal cases involve public dissemination of pictures of human remains, and that did not occur here."

According to the county's filing, the photographs "were not given to the media and were not posted on the internet," and thus had not been "publicly disseminated."

The county's attorneys went on to say they "showing an accident site photograph to one member of the public cannot constitute an invasion of plaintiff's privacy."

The attorneys also claim there is no legal basis for suing the defendants for "hypothetical harm," since the suit was filed "because she is concerned that photographs may be publicly disseminated."

The lawsuit that names Los Angeles County, the L.A. County Fire Department, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and four deputies — Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales — as defendants in the case.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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