Lakers GM Rob Pelinka Testifies About Vanessa Bryant's Emotional Distress Over Crash Site Photos

During Vanessa Bryant's trial against Los Angeles county, Rob Pelinka testified that the mom "didn't know if she could go on" if her kids ever saw unauthorized photos of Kobe Bryant's crash site.

By Alli Rosenbloom, Gabrielle Chung Aug 12, 2022 10:29 PMTags
Watch: Vanessa Bryant Cries in Court During Trial Against L.A. County

Vanessa Bryant is still traumatized by the death of husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, according to close family friend and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

During Vanessa's ongoing trial against L.A. County for invasion of privacy and negligence, Rob testified to the emotional distress the 40-year-old constantly faces after learning that sheriff's deputies and firefighters had taken and shared unauthorized photos from the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gigi, as well as seven others.

Taking the stand in a federal courtroom on Aug. 11, Rob said he has witnessed Vanessa suffer panic attacks on "numerous occasions" over the existence of the images. While Rob noted that she is "always very mindful of being strong and courageous in front of her daughters," he testified that Vanessa is wracked with grief and anxiety behind closed doors.

Explaining how he has spent countless nights comforting Vanessa over the phone, Rob said the matriarch once expressed to him how "she didn't know if she could go on, live another day" if her family—including daughters Natalia, 19, Bianka, 5, and Capri, 3—was to ever see the unauthorized crash site photos. The general manager furthered that he "would be horrified" if someone were to show him the images.

Kobe Bryant: Life in Photos

To preserve Kobe and Gigi's memories, Vanessa works hard to fill her home with family portraits, according to Rob. He added, "I love the Bryant family like my own."

Vanessa's trial comes almost two years after she first filed her lawsuit against L.A. County officials. In the complaint, previously obtained by E! News, Vanessa claimed that multiple deputies snapped pictures of remains at the crash site and forwarded them to colleagues, one of whom was seen on surveillance footage from a Southern California bar showing his phone to a worker there.

Getty Images

Per an Aug. 3 defendants' trial brief obtained by E! News, the county of Los Angeles argued that Vanessa's lawsuit is without legal merit. J. Mira Hamshall, an attorney representing L.A. County, defended the taking of photos at the crash site during the trial's opening remarks on Aug. 10, saying it was "essential" to the investigation and that authorities have worked hard to make sure they remain confidential.

"They're not online. They're not in the media. They've never even been seen by the plaintiffs themselves," she said, per Associated Press. "That is not an accident. That is a function of how diligent they were."

She added the deputy who showed the crash scene images to a bartender had a "moment of weakness," and that L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva immediately ordered for the deletion of the photos upon learning that they were stored on phones and computers.

During the trial's opening statements on Aug. 10, Vanessa's attorney Luis Li told the jury that officials "poured salt in an unhealable wound" by taking and sharing those photos. "They took close-ups of limbs, of burnt flesh," the lawyer said, per Rolling Stone. "It shocks the conscience."

Vanessa, who has been attending the courtroom proceedings since the start of the trial, is seeking damages for emotional distress in her suit

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