4:49 PM PT — An emotional Lakers GM Rob Pelinka took the stand — barely able to speak when talking about how special his relationship with Kobe really was. Pelinka says he still considers Kobe to be his best friend, and that having Kobe as a friend was like knowing a super hero.
Pelinka revealed he was in church when he got a call about the helicopter crash, and rushed to meet Vanessa at John Wayne Airport. Pelinka says deputies took him and Vanessa close to the crash site, and were promised the area would be kept private.
Pelinka says Vanessa has fought to protect the beauty of her family, and if the photos from the scene were to get out, there’s fear for what it could do to her daughters. He also revealed that in June 2020, Vanessa went to the site of the crash to touch the soil where Kobe and GiGi were before they went to heaven.
Vanessa Bryant dissolved into tears as her lawyer addressed the jury in opening statements, saying the 8 L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies who took photos of the bodies of her husband and child took the pictures “for a laugh like they were souvenirs.”
Vanessa’s lawyer said the deputies “poured salt in an unhealable wound” by using their cellphones to take the photos for personal use. The lawyer described “pictures of broken bodies, close-ups of limbs and burnt flesh.”
The lawyer played the deposition of a Sheriff’s detective who said his wife didn’t want to see the photos, and that’s when he told her they showed “piles of meat.”
The attorney says Vanessa lives “in fear, anxiety and terror” that someday she and her family will see the photos.
The lawyer said Vanessa’s children were her everything, Kobe was her everything, and she will be forever haunted by what the deputies did.
The crux of the case involves L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies who took photos of the bodies of Kobe and daughter Gianna at the crash scene and then shared them with colleagues. In one case, a deputy allegedly showed the photos to a woman at a bar, and the bartender is the one who blew the whistle on him.
Vanessa claims in the lawsuit … the conduct of the deputies caused her severe emotional distress, adding it was an invasion of privacy. Lawyers for L.A. County responded by claiming Vanessa’s emotional distress is rooted in the crash, not the photos.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law 2 years ago — called the Kobe Bryant Act — making it a crime for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene for purposes unrelated to the case. The crime is punishable by a $1,000 fine.