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California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved legislation Monday that makes it a crime for first responders to take unauthorized photos of a deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime. The law was prompted by the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people.

Reports surfaced after the crash that graphic photos of the victims were being shared. Los Angeles County Sherriff Alex Villanueva said that eight deputies were accused of taking or sharing graphic photos of the scene, according to The Associated Press. Villanueva added that his department already had a policy against taking and sharing photos from crime scenes, but that it didn’t have language specific to the scene of accidents. Villanueva ordered the photos of the Jan. 26 crash scene to be deleted. 

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Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, has sued the Los Angeles County sherriff for the sharing of those photos after the crash. Her suit seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to ESPN

“This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement. “The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant’s requests for information, saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any inquiry and had no legal obligation to do so. It’s now for a court to tell the department what its obligations are.”

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit states, in part: “Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.”

The legislation approved Monday by Newsom will take effect Jan. 1. It makes it a misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000 per offense to take photos of accident scenes for any reason other than an official law enforcement purpose. The bill had been sponsored by Villaneuva himself. 

The bill was pushed for by a California Democrat Assemblyman, Mike Gipson, who shared his thoughts via Twitter after Newsom signed the bill into law. 

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September 29, 2020
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