Judge denies L.A. County's request to force Vanessa Bryant to undergo psych evaluation in lawsuit

A federal judge ruled Monday that Vanessa Bryant will not have to undergo a psychiatric exam as part of her lawsuit against Los Angeles County regarding photos taken and shared by sheriff’s deputies, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The judge, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick, ruled that the county’s motion to force Bryant and others to undergo the evaluation was untimely, as the trial is scheduled for February.

“The County’s tactics are simply a cruel attempt to extract a price for victims to obtain accountability,” Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, wrote in a court filing, via the Los Angeles Times. “Rather than take accountability for conduct the Sheriff himself has called ‘wildly inappropriate’ and ‘disgusting,’ the County has chosen to pull out all the stops to make the case as painful as possible.”

Bryant filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County shortly after the Jan. 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and seven others for emotional distress over the alleged photos the officers shared from the crash site.

The lawsuit has become contentious in recent weeks, and Bryant gave a revealing deposition last month detailing how she learned of the accident and more.

The county has said that Bryant isn’t suffering from emotional distress from any photos, but simply the crash itself.

“The fact remains that no crash site photos taken by first responders have ever been publicly disseminated, as Ms. Bryant confirmed in her deposition,” said Skip Miller, a Century City lawyer whose firm was retained to defend L.A. County, via the Los Angeles Times.

“We totally sympathize with the enormous loss she has suffered. But as a legal matter, we don’t believe she could be harmed by something that didn’t occur.”

Bryant has said that four deputies took and shared graphic photos of victims from the crash site, and later named those deputies publicly on Instagram. One officer allegedly shared photos from the crash at a bar just days later and “boasted” about them, which led to another bar patron filing a complaint with the sheriff’s department. Another allegedly shared photos with a friend he plays video games with.

Bryant alleged that photos spread to at least 10 members of the department within 48 hours of the crash, and one deputy took up to 100 photos on his personal phone.

Bryant also said that Sheriff Alex Villanueva didn’t tell internal affairs about the incident until after it had already been made public, and that he had told them they wouldn’t face discipline if they just deleted the photos.

Bryant also said in her deposition that Villanueva had told her that the crash site was secure from anyone who would take photos that same day when they were meeting at a police station — something that clearly didn’t happen.

“The impact of the helicopter crash was so damaging, I just don’t understand how someone can have no regard for life and compassion and, instead, choose to take that opportunity to photograph lifeless and helpless individuals for their own sick amusement,” Bryant said in her deposition.