September 28, 2022

  • Vanessa Bryant will be able to call a key eyewitness in her suit against LA County.
  • At the last hearing before the trial began on August 10, both her team and the County secured victories.
  • The second eyewitness who filed a complaint will not be able to testify.

A woman who filed a complaint saying she saw a former member of the Los Angeles Fire Department show off gruesome photos of the Kobe helicopter crash will be allowed to testify in Vanessa Bryant’s upcoming trial against Los Angeles County.

In January, Bryant’s attorney asked the court to admit eyewitness testimony from Ralph Mendez Jr. and Louella Weiterer. the two individuals who filed complaints claiming that photos of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash were being shown publicly.

On Friday, in a preliminary conference before the trial begins next week, Judge John Walter said Mendez Jr. cannot go to court because it would be “inadmissible hearsay” as he only overheard one conversation, but that Weireter could testify under certain conditions.

In September 2020, Bryant sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the county fire department, the county as a whole and eight officers after reports that first responders took and shared photos of the January 2020 crash site.

Her lawsuit seeks damages from the county defendants accused of taking and sharing photos of the crash site. Bryant is suing the county for negligence, emotional distress and breach of privacy claims, as well as federal claims related to her constitutional right to images of her deceased loved ones and LA County practices that led to the alleged taking and dissemination of the photos.

Bryant’s trial against the county begins Aug. 10.

Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that Tony Ibrenda, a former Los Angeles Fire Department employee, reported and showed the photos less than a month after the crash at the 2020 Golden Mike Awards, which Weireter attended.

According to Bryant’s team, Weireter filed a complaint with the county after she allegedly saw Imbrenda show the photos to others huddled around him and his phone at the ceremony. Weireter also claimed she heard a fire captain holding his stomach and saying, “I just saw pictures of Kobe all burning before I went to eat.”

Walter said Weireter could only testify about what she saw from Imbrenda and the fire captain.

The county previously objected to requests for citizens to testify, saying, “Neither Mendez nor Weireter has seen photos from the crash site.”

“Either they ‘heard’ something from 20 feet away or someone told them what someone else had told them. That is not proper evidence,” Los Angeles County attorneys wrote in February.

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