Vanessa Bryant plans to give verdict proceeds to Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation
Vanessa Bryant, widow of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, plans to donate the proceeds from the $16 million judgment she won Wednesday in a case against Los Angeles County to a foundation named in her husband’s and daughter’s memory, her attorney said Thursday.
The nonprofit Mamba and Mambacita Sports foundation offers sports education to underserved athletes. Started in 2016 as the Mamba Sports Foundation — Kobe Bryant’s nickname was Black Mamba — the charity was renamed in 2020 to honor the Bryants’ 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, a rising basketball star who died alongside her father in a helicopter crash that spurred the lawsuit against the county.
After an 11-day trial, a federal jury on Wednesday ordered Los Angeles County to pay a total of $31 million to Bryant and a man who lost his daughter and wife in the crash for the distress caused by photos sheriff’s deputies and firefighters took and shared of the crash victims’ bodies.
Bryant was awarded $16 million and the man, Chris Chester, will receive $15 million. Bryant said she was giving her portion to the foundation as a way to “to shine a light on Kobe and Gigi’s legacy.”
“From the beginning, Vanessa Bryant has sought only accountability, but our legal system does not permit her to force better policies, more training or officer discipline,” her attorney Luis Li said in a statement. “Those measures are the responsibility of the sheriff’s and fire departments — responsibilities that Mrs. Bryant’s efforts have exposed as woefully deficient, even giving amnesty to the wrongdoers.”
He added that Bryant “never faltered, even when the county attempted to force her to submit to an involuntary psychiatric examination.”
The statement did not specify the exact amount of money the foundation would receive.
In the statement, Li said Bryant is “deeply grateful” to Ralph Mendez and Luella Weireter, who complained to the Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department, respectively, about the photo sharing. Mendez reported that a deputy was showing off crash scene photos to a bartender in Norwalk, while Weireter reported that firefighters were sharing the photos at an awards gala in Universal City.
Li said the pair “brought to light the decades old practice of taking and sharing photos of accident and crime victims for no legitimate purpose.” He added: “It is Mrs. Bryant’s hope that this important civil rights case will put to a stop this abhorrent and callous behavior.”
Lawyers for Bryant and Chester documented how the photos had spread from the phones of deputies and firefighters at the crash scene on a steep hillside in Calabasas: They were flashed from a sheriff’s deputy’s phone screen to a bartender in Norwalk. They were shown to firefighters and their spouses during an awards gala at a hotel in Universal City in what amounted, one witness said, to a “party trick.” They were passed from one deputy to another as the pair played video games.
The lawyers argued that it is unknown how far the images spread because the county did not thoroughly investigate.
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