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Amid Kobe Bryant Photo Trial, Bartender Addresses Claim That He Laughed When Showed Pictures Of Crash Site

Kobe Bryant on First Take
(Image credit: ESPN)

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against L.A. County – which is centered around first responders who allegedly circulated photos of her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna’s deadly 2020 helicopter crash site – faced several delays in the preliminary stages. Obviously, the early days of the pandemic postponed many court dates, this one included, and the mountain of initial evidence presented by both Vanessa’s legal team (who was scolded for sharing so much) and the defense later had to be parsed down. They’re finally in front of a jury now, though. In the latest development from the trial, a bartender witness addresses the claim that he laughed when he was shown the pictures.

TMZ reports that Victor Gutierrez confirmed in court on August 12 that L.A. County Sherrif’s Deputy Joey Cruz offered to show him snaps of the crash site at the Baha Grill in Los Angeles where Gutierrez works. Apparently, he and other employees there, as well as some bar bystanders, viewed the horrific images which reportedly included ones of the nine victims’ remains. However, the bartender testified that the deputy’s actions weren’t malicious, in his view, but only to release some of the burden of what he saw.

The attorney for Kobe Bryant’s widow pushed back in their cross examination of the witness. Particularly, they asked if Victor Gutierrez had found the pictures funny at that time. He denied it, but then bar surveillance video was presented in court of Gutierrez supposedly laughing in the moment. He again denied the insinuations, adding that anyone who found humor in those images would be “psychotic.”

The reason the bar scenario is coming up in court is because Vanessa Bryant is claiming that the circulation of the crash site pictures by county officials invaded her right to privacy, regarding images of deceased loved ones. What's more is that it's been stipulated that the potential of these now-public, gruesome pics coming across her online feed at any given time without her consent is causing Bryant emotional distress.

Taunting social media posts are in fact at the heart of the lawsuit in question. The judge had ruled ahead of the trial that some messages that Vanessa Bryant received online in the wake of the crash were “admittedly relevant as a taunt,” and consequently, potential evidence of emotional distress. Some, though, were deemed inadmissible for the trial due to Bryant receiving them before it became public knowledge that L.A. County responders had circulated anything – therefore, making them largely “hearsay” in this case. However, a message that threatened to “leak Kobe’s body” and a post with an aerial view shot (supposedly from the county) are among those counted as evidence.

When the trial first kicked off on August 11, per the outlet, the plaintiff's legal team (which now includes an expert from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial) made opening statements that outlined in full the eight deputies who took personal pics of the deceased bodies. As they tell it, the photos were spread by responders at an awards gala, shared with a woman at a bar, and dispersed among their family members. Consequently, Kobe Bryant’s wife was seen sobbing openly in court that day.

It’s only been two days so far in what's expected to be a 10-day trial, but it’s clearly going to be emotional affair for those close to the former NBA legend, of whom was recently paid tribute to at the ESPY Awards by Klay Thompson. More updates on the case are sure to arrive sooner rather than later.

Lauren Vanderveen
Movies and TV News Writer

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.