New Allegations Surface in Kobe Bryant Photo Scandal Case

Allegations surfaced today that two members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department could be (or have been) fired for their role in a photo-taking scandal in the aftermath of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash in January, 2020.

The scandal resulted in the enactment of a new law making such photo-taking a criminal offense in California. It also spurred at least six civil suits against LA County Fire.

The new allegations appeared today in the media, sparked by court documents submitted earlier this week by attorneys for Vanessa Bryant in her suit against Los Angeles County. The suit contends that county sheriffs and firefighters took and shared grisly photos of the victims, constituting an invasion of privacy.

According to documents filed in US District Court for the Central District of California, Bryant alleges that:

  • While the County has been in possession of internal investigation reports detailing misconduct by Fire Department personnel since August 2020, it chose to wait until March 22, 2021 to produce those reports to Mrs. Bryant—nearly four months after the County decided to discharge two of firefighters involved and suspend a third, and more than four months after Mrs. Bryant propounded requests for production that called for such documents.
  • According to the reports, two Fire Department employees took photos of the victims’ remains that “served no business necessity” and instead “only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip.”
  • Both of the employees sent their graphic photos to a third Fire Department employee who was on site to assist with press briefings.  
  • Then, the employee who received the photos shared them with a group of off-duty firefighters and their wives and girlfriends during an awards ceremony at a Hilton hotel in February 2020.

The allegations were part of a request by Bryant’s attorneys to modify the trial schedule to allow additional time for discovery. According to NBC News, neither Los Angeles County Fire Department nor Los Angeles County Firefighters had any comment on the allegations. Here is a copy of the court filing:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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