The names of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies who allegedly shared photos of human remains in the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter cannot be kept secret, one said Federal judge decided.
U.S. District Court judge John F. Walter overseeing a lawsuit filed by Bryant’s widow against the Sheriff’s Department ruled late Monday that the public has a vested interest in whether authorities are responsible for investigating and assessing complaints Are responsible about wrongdoing, have acted properly wisely.
“While the Court recognizes that this case has been the subject of public scrutiny and media attention, and that the assistant defendants are rightly concerned that they will be exposed to vitriol and social media attacks, such concerns alone are not enough to resolve the Strength of the public to outweigh interest in access, “the ruling said.
Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, sued the Los Angeles County and Sheriff’s Department in September, accusing the county staff of “showing off” photos of the remains of her husband and teenage daughter. MPs allegedly shared the photos with each other and with others for no prosecution purpose, the lawsuit said.
Bryant and his daughter Gianna were killed along with seven others when their helicopter crashed en route to a youth basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks, California on January 29, 2020.
The sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday.
Download the NBC News App for breaking news and politics
It has already been confirmed that first responders, including MPs and Los Angeles County Fire Department workers, took and shared photos of the remains of the victims at the crash site.
Villanueva said in media interviews that he had ordered that all photos be destroyed. The department has also said that shortly after the crash, Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva sponsored laws that now make it a crime for public security personnel to take and share unofficial pictures of “this type”.
It was not immediately clear whether the names of the Los Angeles County Fire Department employees suspected of wrongdoing would also be released.
In an Instagram post in February, Bryant publicly urged the sheriff’s department to release the names of MPs allegedly caught sharing the photos. She said editing or hiding the names from the public created a double standard of accountability.
“They want their names to be removed from the public eye,” she wrote. “Anyone else exposed to these allegations will be exposed, named and made available to the public.”
In Monday’s ruling, Walter said one of the county’s arguments in attempting to keep MPs’ names secret appeared to contradict the sheriff’s statements that the photos had been destroyed.
District attorneys said they were concerned that someone could break into one of MPs’ private social media or internet accounts and obtain copies of the photos.
“The defendants ‘concern that hackers might try to search for and gain access to individual MPs’ devices in order to find and publish photos completely contradicts their position that such photos no longer exist,” the judge said .
Following Monday’s decision, Bryant thanked Walter and lawyer Luis Li in a new Instagram post.
Quoting Li’s comment to the Los Angeles Times, she wrote, “Transparency promotes accountability. We look forward to bringing Ms. Bryant’s case to court.”