The second week of Vanessa Bryant‘s invasion-of-privacy trial against Los Angeles County kicked off on Monday (Aug. 22), with Kobe Bryant‘s widow arriving at the L.A. courtroom with her daughter, Natalia Bryant. As Vanessa, 40, walked in with her legal team and entourage, she held her 19-year-old daughter’s hand. The Bryants dressed for the seriousness of the matter, with Natalia wearing all black while her mother opted for a white button-up. As the two walked in, one of the paparazzi told her “good luck” in Spanish, and she responded with “Gracias,” per Backgrid.
On Friday (Aug. 19), Vanessa testified about the emotional stress and damage she felt when she learned of the photos taken by first responders of Kobe and 13-year-old Giana Bryant following their fatal 2020 helicopter crash. She testified that she was breastfeeding her then-7-month-old daughter, Capri, when she learned of a Los Angeles Times report about sheriff’s deputies sharing the graphic photos with civilians.
“I just remember not wanting to react cause the girls were in the room,” said a tearful Vanessa. “I said, ‘I can’t do this.’… And I bolted out of the house, and I ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn’t see me. I wanted to run… down the block and just scream. I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I feel. … I was blindsided again, devastated, hurt. I trusted them. I trusted them not to do these things.” Vanessa also testified that she’s terrified that those photos would leak and appear online and that she lives “in fear every day of seeing [them] on social media.”
This day was the first time the jury of five men and four women heard from Vanessa and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Bryant accused the county’s sheriff’s and fire department’s employees of taking unauthorized photos of the crash scene and sharing the photos of her husband and daughter’s remains with others. Chris Chester, who lost his wife and daughter in the same crash, joined Vanessa in the lawsuit. Both claim the county violated their constitutional rights to control the death images of their loved ones, per USA Today.
Sheriff Villanueva claimed that the photos were not leaked and that instead of opening a formal investigation into the alleged misconduct – which would invoke union rules, require attorneys and involve delays, thus allowing more time for the photos to spread – his department came up with a “bargain,” per CNN. Deputies involved in the leak would prove that the photos were deleted and get a note about their conduct in their performance log. “You can’t have the accountability and (also) risk the photos getting out,” Villanueva testified, per CNN. “And we picked the right one.”
The trial has involved testimony from first responders, including a deputy who showed the crash images at a bar, another deputy who shared the photos while playing a video game, a deputy who sent dozens of the photos to someone who he didn’t know, and a fire official who showed the images to other officials during an awards ceremony cocktail hour.