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The Kobe Bryant family settles a $28.5 million photo lawsuit

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — The family of the late Kobe Bryant has agreed to a $28.5 million settlement with Los Angeles County to resolve remaining claims in a lawsuit alleging deputies and firefighters who used horrific photos of the NBA star, his 13-year-old daughter and other victims killed in a 2020 helicopter crash, lawyers and court documents said Tuesday.

    The figure includes a newly agreed payment from the county of $13.5 million, along with the $15 million a federal jury awarded Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, at a trial in August.

    The agreement resolves all future claims of Bryant’s three surviving daughters, related issues pending in state court and other costs. A proposed settlement, which must be approved by a judge, was filed in federal court on Tuesday.

    “Today marks the successful culmination of Ms. Bryant’s courageous fight to hold accountable those guilty of this grotesque behavior,” Bryant’s attorney Luis Li said in a statement. “She fought for her husband, her daughter and everyone in the community whose deceased family was treated with the same disrespect.”

    Mira Hashmall, the attorney representing LA County, called the statement “fair and reasonable” and added, “We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss.”

    Former Lakers star, five-time NBA champion and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Kobe Bryant was traveling with Gianna and seven others to a youth basketball game when the helicopter they were in crashed into hills in Calabasas west of Los Angeles on 26 January 2020.

    Deputies and firefighters responding to the crash scene took phone photos of the bodies and wreckage, which Hashmall claimed at trial were an essential part of assessing the situation.

    But the photos were shared, mostly between county sheriff and fire department employees, including some playing video games and attending an awards ceremony. They were also seen by some of their husbands and in one instance by a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking.

    Li told jurors that the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose and were merely “visual gossip” shared out of horrific curiosity.

    Hashmall argued that the sheriff acted quickly and appropriately when ordering the photos removed.

    Vanessa Bryant tearfully testified at the 11-day trial that the news of the photos still exacerbates her raw grief a month after losing her husband and daughter, and that she still has panic attacks at the thought that they might still be here and her daughters she might see online one day.

    The verdict in her favor was misread in court as $16 million, but was later changed to $15 million.

    Federal security officials blamed pilot error for the crash itself.

    Chris Chester, Vanessa Bryant’s co-plaintiff at the trial, also received $15 million at trial and reached his own settlement with the county in September for nearly $5 million more.