- Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has spoken in court about his relationship with Kobe and Vanessa Bryant.
- He testified in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against LA County over photos of the Kobe helicopter crash site.
- Pelinka said six months after the crash, he and Vanessa Bryant visited the crash site to pay their respects.
Six months after a helicopter carrying Kobe and Gianna “Gigi” Bryant crashed in Calabasas, Calif., killing all nine passengers on board, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, took an all-terrain vehicle up the nearly 1,200-foot hill where the plane crashed.
There, Vanessa Bryant and Pelinka — friends for more than two decades — paid their respects to Kobe and Gigi, Pelinka told jurors in federal court in Los Angeles.
“Part of her journey of grief and healing was that she wanted to touch the ground from where they went to heaven,” Pelinka told the court, fighting back tears. “We just knew they were with us.”
Pelinka’s testimony began on the first day of Vanessa Bryant’s trial against Los Angeles County after LA Sheriff’s Deputies and LA County Fire Captains took and shared photos of the crash site. helicopter in late January 2020. It provided a window into Vanessa Bryant’s emotional state after the crash. , and how his distress was compounded after learning that illicit photos of the crash site had been taken.
On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and baseball coach John Altobelli and his family crashed near Malibu while heading to a baseball game. female basketball. All nine on board, including pilot Ara Zobayan, died in the crash.
In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, county firefighters, the county as a whole and eight officers following broken reports by the LA Times that first responders took and shared photos of the January 2020 accident. place. Chris Chester, whose wife Sarah and daughter Peyton died in the accident, is also suing county workers for the same federal and state claims and will have a 9-day consolidated lawsuit alongside Bryant against the county.
Pelinka said the morning of the crash, he was at church with his family, receiving messages from Kobe Bryant while he was on the helicopter, asking Pelinka if he could help donate to a young girl on board advice on working in the sports industry.
It was Kobe’s nature, Pelinka told the court when describing meeting the NBA legend in 1998 as they were starting their careers.
“He’s still my best friend,” Pelinka told the court as she cried and recalled the day of the accident, referring to Vanessa Bryant as her sister. “Being friends with Kobe was like having a real superhero as your best friend.”
Pelinka added that Vanessa Bryant, who was dressed in black and cried for much of the proceedings on Wednesday, cared so much about the “beauty she created around her children,” and that when he learned of the news county staff had taken photos of Kobe and Gigi remains at the crash site, he thought of the gruesome photos “juxtaposed to the ones she has at home.”
In her opening statements, County Attorney Mira Hashmall said first responders from various agencies documented the crash site in accordance with their agency’s policies and “put their lives on the line” to respond to the crash. and put out a resulting bushfire.
Hashmall added in his opening statement that 18 different federal and state agencies responded to the crash scene, including the FBI – and claimed that news agencies were the only entities to publicly release photos of the crash. accident. Hashmall said LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s removal order to staff who took photos helped ‘contain’ the spread of the photos amid ‘misjudgments’ by county staff who sent messages to each other. Pictures.
Bryant’s lawsuit seeks punitive damages from county defendants who are accused of taking and sharing photos of the crash site. Bryant is suing the county for negligence, emotional distress and invasion of privacy, as well as federal claims regarding the constitutional right to images of his deceased loved ones, and LA County agency practices that led to the taking and to the alleged dissemination of Photos.
In a first victory, Judge John Walter granted lawyers for Chester and Bryant the ability to call a coroner who took photos of the scene, saying the coroner’s photos are “the plaintiff’s best evidence of this that the photos depicted”, and added that they would not be shown publicly, not even to the jury.
Hashmall told Insider that the plaintiffs are “aiming to inflame the emotions of the jury by confusing the coroner’s photos, taken for an entirely different purpose, with the photos taken by the sheriff’s and fire departments.”
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, claimed in opening statements that LACFD personnel went “hand-to-hand” to take photos of the remains at the crash site, then sent photos to a network of county employees, and said the county “poured salt into an unhealed wound and violated the constitution.”
“Bryant’s loved ones deserve to be treated with the care and dignity that every culture in the world treats those who die,” Li said.