A U.S. district judge has ruled that the names of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who allegedly shared photos of human remains at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and other victims can be released to the NBA star’s widow, Vanessa Bryant.
Judge John F. Walter ruled Monday that the attorneys protecting the deputies’ identities failed to demonstrate compelling reasons to keep their names under seal. This allows them to be added to a lawsuit that Vanessa Bryant has filed against the county and its sheriff’s department over the crash that killed her husband, the couple’s daughter and seven others.
“Although the Court recognizes that this case has been the subject of public scrutiny and media attention and that the Deputy Defendants are legitimately concerned that they will encounter vitriol and social media attacks, such concerns, by themselves, are not sufficient to outweigh the public’s strong interest in access,” wrote Walter.
Vanessa Bryant expressed her gratitude in a statement posted to Instagram following news of the judge’s ruling, which the county has four days to appeal.
“Transparency promotes accountability. We look forward to presenting Mrs. Bryant’s case in open court,” her attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement shared by Vanessa Bryant and to the Los Angeles Times.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted early last year that eight of his deputies had confessed to their involvement in taking, seeing and sharing photos of the crash site.
“We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them,” Villanueva told NBC News at the time.
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney had condemned the deputies’ alleged behavior as “an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families.”
“We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated,” her attorney said at the time.