Vanessa Bryant broke down in tears during her three-hour testimony at her invasion-of-privacy trial in Los Angeles on Friday, August 19. The wife of late NBA star Kobe Bryant had filed a lawsuit against L.A. County claiming sheriff deputies took photos of Kobe and their daughter Gianna’s bodies and shared them to unauthorized persons following the pair’s deaths in a helicopter crash in January 2020. Taking the stand for the first time, Vanessa said she was “blindsided, devastated, hurt and betrayed” after learning of the photos in a Los Angeles Times article in February 2020, per NBC News.
“I just remember not wanting to react because the girls were in the room,” a visibly upset Vanessa said in the courtroom, referencing the three other children she shares with Kobe: Capri, 3, Bianka, 5, and Natalia, 19, according to the outlet. “I bolted out of the house and I broke down and cried and I just wanted to run down the block and scream. I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I feel.”
Vanessa went on to say that she has never seen the graphic images, adding, “I don’t ever want to see these photographs. I want to remember them as they were.” She said she is terrified they may appear online for her and her daughters to see by accident. “I live in fear everyday of seeing on social media and having these images pop up,” she explained.
Despite officials claiming the photographs were erased four days after the crash, Vanessa said the damage had already been done. Chris Chester, whose wife, Sarah and daughter, Payton, 13, were also killed in the crash, is part of the lawsuit and echoed Vanessa’s sentiment in an earlier testimony. “The photos have been seen,” he said on the stand, according to USA TODAY. “They have been paraded around in the public. Nothing dies on the internet. It’s compounded grief on grief.”
Vanessa’s lawyer, Luis Li, argued that the cell phone photos taken at the crash scene by officials had no official purpose other than “visual gossip,” per the outlet. “January 26th, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life,” he added. “The county made it much worse. They poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in.”
Kobe was 41 and Gianna was 13 when they died in the helicopter crash. They were on their way to a youth basketball game when the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain. 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli,Keri Altobelli, 46,John Altobelli, 56, Christina Mauser, 38, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, also perished in the tragic accident.