Request neither ‘confusing, harassing’

A Los Angeles federal judge has granted Vanessa Bryant’s motion to compel depositions of Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Fire Chief Daryl Osby in her lawsuit against the county over photos of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash scene allegedly taken and circulated by sheriff’s deputies.

In a ruling obtained by City News Service, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick sided with Bryant, saying her purpose in seeking the depositions “is neither abusive nor harassing.’’

Bryant sued Los Angeles County last year, alleging that she and her family suffered severe emotional distress after discovering that sheriff’s deputies snapped and shared gruesome photos of the helicopter crash scene where her Laker legend husband died, along with their daughter and seven other people.

In his order, Eick wrote that the defendants in the lawsuit identified Villanueva and Osby as “likely to have discoverable information’’ whom the defendants may use to  support their arguments in the case.

The judge wrote that it appears that both Villanueva and Osby have “unique first-hand, non-repetitive knowledge’’ relevant to the issues in the case and such knowledge is not entirely obtainable from other sources.

To minimize the effect the timing of the depositions might have on the performance of the sheriff and fire chief’s official duties, the judge ordered the depositions be limited to four hours each.

Representatives for Villanueva and Osby could not be reached for immediate comment. A message left with Bryant’s attorney was not immediately answered.

The county is the lead defendant in Bryant’s lawsuit, which alleges an invasion of privacy that caused her great emotional distress. Villanueva and Osby are not named defendants in the case, but the sheriff’s and fire departments are.

The lawsuit contends that deputies took and shared photos of the human remains at the Calabasas helicopter crash site on Jan. 26, 2020.

“Faced with a scene of unimaginable loss, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies at the crash site pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches,’’ the suit states.

Attorneys representing the county have asked a judge to order Bryant to undergo a psychiatric exam to determine whether her distress was caused by the leaked photos or the unexpected loss of her husband of nearly 20 years and their 13-year-old daughter.

The county alleges Bryant and other plaintiffs in the case “cannot be suffering distress from accident site photos that they have never seen and that were never publicly disseminated.’’ 

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