- Vanessa Bryant will be able to call on a key eyewitness in her suit against LA County.
- At the final hearing before the trial kicks on August 10, both her team and the County secured wins.
- The second eyewitness who lodged a complaint will not be able to testify.
A woman who filed a complaint saying she witnessed a former member of the LA County Fire Department showing off grisly Kobe helicopter crash photos will be allowed to testify at the upcoming trial of Vanessa Bryant vs. Los Angeles County.
In January, Bryant’s attorney moved to ask the court to admit the eyewitness testimony of Ralph Mendez Jr. and Luella Weireter, the two private citizens who submitted complaints alleging Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash photos were being shown in public.
On Friday, at a pre-trial conference, before the trial kicks off next week, Judge John Walter said that Mendez Jr. can’t address the court because it would be “inadmissible hearsay,” as he only overheard a conversation, but that Weireter could testify under some conditions.
In September 2020, Bryant sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the county’s fire department, the county as a whole, and eight officers in the wake of reports that first responders took and shared photos of the January 2020 crash site.
Her suit is seeking punitive damages from county defendants who are accused of taking and sharing crash site photos. Bryant is suing the county for negligence, emotional distress, and invasion of privacy claims as well as federal claims which relate to the constitutional right to the images of her deceased loved ones, and LA County agency practices that led to the alleged taking and dissemination of photos.
Bryant’s trial against the County kicks off on August 10.
Bryant’s suit alleges that Tony Imbrenda, a former Los Angeles County Fire Department public information officer, referenced and showed the photos less than a month after the crash at the 2020 Golden Mike awards, which Weireter attended.
According to Bryant’s team, Weireter lodged a complaint with the county after she allegedly saw Imbrenda showing the photos to others who were huddled around him and his phone at the ceremony. Weireter also alleged that she heard a fire captain holding his stomach and saying, “I just saw photos of Kobe all burned up before I’m about to eat.”
Walter said that Weireter could only testify about what she witnessed from Imbrenda and the fire captain.
The county previously objected to the requests to have the civilians testify, saying, “Neither Mendez nor Weireter has seen any crash site photos.”
“They either ‘overheard’ something from 20 feet away or were told by someone what they had been told by someone else. That is not proper evidence,” Los Angeles County attorneys wrote in February.