A federal judge has ruled that the names of Los Angeles County Deputies who allegedly shared unauthorized photographs of the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant can be made public amid a lawsuit filed by Bryant’s wife, Vanessa.
U.S. District Judge John Walter denied a request by lawyers for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office to keep the deputies' names under seal, according to the Los Angeles Times. The ruling means that Vanessa Bryant can include the deputies’ names and information about their past conduct in her lawsuit.
Lawyers for sheriff’s office had argued that including names of the deputies in the lawsuit could put their safety and the safety of their families at risk.
Vanessa Bryant filed the lawsuit in September, about six months after her husband, her daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Her lawsuit alleges that the deputies took "gratuitous images" with their cell phones after responding to the scene.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has already admitted publicly that the deputies took photos of the scene with their cell phones. Villanueva made the confirmation after the Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that deputies were told they would not face discipline if they deleted the crash photos from their phones.
Critics have claimed that the department’s decision to withhold punishment in exchange for deleting the photos amounts to destruction of evidence.
Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that the sheriff’s office did not inform her when it discovered the photos had been taken and that Villanueva did not immediately investigate the incident.
The lawsuit also alleges that one deputy showed the photos to people outside of the sheriff’s office. Yahoo reports that one deputy showed photos of the scene to a person in a bar and bragged about being at the crash site.