LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Vanessa Bryant must turn over her mental health records in her lawsuit against Los Angeles County over the sharing of personal cell phone photos by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters at the scene of the January 2020 helicopter crash which killed her husband, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna, and seven others, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick ordered Bryant and her therapist to produce the records by Nov. 29, but limited the coverage period from Jan. 1, 2017, to the present. The county had asked for her records dating from January 2010.
Bryant’s attorney Mari Saigal alleged in court papers that the county’s effort to get hold of the records “should be seen for what it is: an attempt to bully Mrs. Bryant into dropping her case to avoid her private therapy records being brandished in open court and reported on by media outlets.”
However, L.A. County successfully argued that the records are necessary to defend itself from the lawsuit and to show that Bryant did not, as alleged, suffer from the circulation of photos taken at the site of the crash last year that killed the NBA legend, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter and seven others.
Bryant won a separate legal victory in the case when Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby were ordered to be deposed in the case. The sheriff testified under oath on Wednesday, and it was not immediately known if Osby has been deposed.
Judge Eick also denied a request from L.A. County’s lawyers that Vanessa Bryant undergo a psychiatric evaluation in the case.
L.A. County contends that Bryant’s claims of emotional distress are based on allegations deputies showed accident site photos to other first responders and to a bartender.
However, the widow contends the photos were also shared with attendees at an awards show party, a customer at a Norwalk bar, a city firefighter who was not a county employee, the niece of a sheriff’s deputy and a friend of another deputy.
On Jan. 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying Lakers legend Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others crashed in heavy fog in Calabasas, killing all nine people aboard. Among those was 56-year-old John Altobelli, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, his 46-year-old wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa. Also aboard was 38-year-old Christina Mauser a wife, mother and basketball coach from Huntington Beach.
On Oct. 2, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a $2.5-million settlement with the families of Mauser and the Altobellis over the unauthorized sharing of photos of the crash scene.
Last September, Vanessa Bryant filed her own federal lawsuit in the case. The trial is scheduled to begin in February.
In response to the crash scene photo scandal, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law last year that makes it a misdemeanor for first responders to take and share accident and crime scene photos for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)