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Kobe Bryant’s widow awarded $16m over leaked crash photos

K

obe Bryant’s widow has been awarded $16 million (£13.5m) in damages after graphic photos of the helicopter crash which killed the basketball star and his daughter were leaked.

A US jury agreed that the photos, shared by Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters, invaded Vanessa Bryant’s privacy and caused emotional distress.

NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among victims killed in the 2020 helicopter crash. They had been travelling to a youth basketball game when the helicopter crashed into hills in Calabasas west of Los Angeles on January 26.

The jury reached the verdict on Kobe Bryant Day, which is celebrated in Los Angeles on August 24 because it represents his jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – and is the day after his birthday. He would have turned 44 on Tuesday.

After the verdict, Mrs Bryant posted a photo on Instagram of herself with her husband and daughter.

“All for you!” the caption read. “I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna

/ AP

The pictures were shared mostly between employees of the LA County sheriff’s and fire departments including by some who were playing video games and attending an awards banquet.

They were also seen by some of their spouses and in one case by a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking.

Vanessa Bryant tearfully testified during the 11-day trial that news of the photos compounded her still-raw grief a month after losing her husband and daughter, and that she still has panic attacks at the thought that they might still be out there.

“I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up,” she testified. “I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”

Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were also among the nine people killed in the crash, was awarded $15 million.

Mrs Bryant declined comment outside court Wednesday. Her face was still streaked with tears as she walked past TV cameras and dozens of reporters and climbed into an SUV.

Vanessa Bryant with her daughter Natalia (2L) and close friend Sydney Leroux

/ AFP via Getty Images

Mrs Bryant’s lawyer Luis Li told jurors that the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose, and were mere “visual gossip” shared out of a gruesome curiosity.

County attorney J Mira Hashmall argued during the trial that the photos were a necessary tool for assessing the situation.

She acknowledged that they should not have been shared with everyone who saw them.

But she emphasised that the photos had never appeared publicly, and had never even been seen by the plaintiffs.

She said that meant that Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other officials had taken decisive and effective action when they ordered those who had the photos to delete them.

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