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Vanessa Bryant accused of pursuing 'vengeance' against witness in case over crash photos

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A retired fire department captain is fighting back in court against the widow of Kobe Bryant, accusing her of “impertinence” and pursuing “vengeance” against him in her quest to punish those who shared photos of her dead husband and daughter from the site of their fatal helicopter crash last year.

The retired captain, Brian Jordan, was rebuked last year by the Los Angeles County Fire Department after it determined his photographs from the crash scene had “no legitimate business purpose” and “only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip,” according to court records obtained Friday by USA TODAY Sports. The department intended to terminate him over it before he retired early, citing his mental health, the court records state.

Vanessa Bryant now is asking for a court order to gain access to his cell phone records as part of her lawsuit against Los Angeles County. But Jordan is opposing it, saying her accusations against him are inaccurate and that accessing his phone records is an invasion of his privacy. A judge could decide next month.

“It is with great impertinence that Plaintiff suggests that Mr. Jordan grievously intruded on Mrs. Bryant’s privacy by taking graphic photos of her deceased loved ones, when Mr. Jordan was simply obeying orders,” Jordan’s attorney, Steven Haney, wrote in a court document filed Friday. “Captain Jordan, nor any man, could not have wished to see the carnage that he saw on January 26, 2020. A sight which he will remember and carry with him for the rest of his life. Time and time again Captain Jordan has sought to put these events past him, but instead Plaintiff has pursued vengeance against this third party witness.”

Vanessa Bryant speaking at her late husband's funeral no February 2020.
Vanessa Bryant speaking at her late husband's funeral no February 2020.

Bryant is suing the county for invasion of privacy and negligence, claiming that multiple county fire and sheriff’s department employees improperly shared such photos from the scene of the helicopter crash last year that killed the NBA legend, his daughter and seven others. The county says her lawsuit is without merit and has accused her of conducting a fishing expedition that is subjecting first responders to harassment.

In the court document filed Friday, Bryant's attorney, Luis Li, said Jordan took multiple photographs “directly focused on human remains and then sent the photos to at least one other Department employee, who proceeded to share them over cocktails at a public awards show function.”

Li is seeking his phone records from wireless carries AT&T and T-Mobile, arguing the records will shed light on whether Jordan was texting pictures or video while he was “snapping graphic photos of body parts” in the aftermath of the crash – and to whom he was sending such messages. Li noted Jordan deleted the photos and is seeking a court order requiring Jordan to produce cell phone records from the day of the crash on Jan. 26, 2020, through March 3, 2020.

Jordan is not a named defendant in Bryant’s lawsuit.

“Captain Jordan feels empathy for the pain Mrs. Bryant and her family were subjected to, and the notion that one day photographs will come to light that might affect her family, but Captain Jordan should not have to suffer an invasion of privacy to rectify a potentially theoretical wrong that he was not the cause of,” the filing from Friday stated.

The county fire department told Jordan in a letter last December that “your capture and subsequent dissemination of photographs of the fuselage and human remains” constituted unacceptable conduct, according to a copy of the letter in court records. Jordan acknowledged that “graphic images, as well as Kobe Bryant's remains, were probably in the photographs that he took” that day, according to findings by the fire department that also were included in the court records.

Jordan disputes many of the department’s findings and says the county used him as a scapegoat for its own shortcomings. He contends he was simply obeying orders by taking such photos as part of his duties that day. The court filing states that “due to this incident, his mental health caused him to retire early.”

He is one of at least two employees the fire department notified they would be fired over this incident, in addition to a third who was suspended over it, according to court records.

Citing findings by the fire department last year, Li said Jordan deleted the evidence of his wrongdoing and made false statements to department investigators.

In response, Jordan said he did not provide false information to those investigators. He told them he deleted photos after he heard someone at the crash scene yell “No more pictures! Delete pictures," according to the letter to him from the fire department.

In the court filing, Li said 10 current county employees have consented to the production of their personal cell phone records after taking, receiving or sharing photos from the crash site near Los Angeles.

“Mr. Jordan is the only known individual who took photos of human remains at the crash site who refuses to produce his personal cell phone records,” Li stated in the filing.

In her lawsuit, Vanessa Bryant is seeking compensatory and punitive damages against county defendants to punish them and “make an example of them to the community.”

The county disputes the notion that the photos were publicly disseminated, noting they were not posted on the internet.

A trial is scheduled for February.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa accused of seeking 'vengeance' against witness

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