Vanessa Bryant wants former senior LASD officer near Kobe helicopter crash site to testify about internal tensions following sheriff’s order to remove photos, according to new files

Vanessa Bryant (left) and Kobe Bryant (right) touch each other's heads to pose for a photo in black and white attire

Vanessa Bryant and Kobe BryantDonato Sardella/Getty Images

  • Vanessa Bryant wants a demoted LASD captain to testify at the July trial over Kobe crash photos.

  • Her legal team claimed the captain had been transferred because he was concerned about a cover-up.

  • LA County attorneys said he was transferred days after the crash because of a botched assault investigation.

Attorneys representing Vanessa Bryant in her Los Angeles County lawsuit allege that the LA Sheriff’s Department’s chief officer, stationed near Kobe and Gianna’s helicopter crash, was demoted after she was reluctant to participate in a cover-up, according to new files .

In a series of witness lists and evidence files ahead of a July 26 trial, Bryant’s team argued for Captain Matthew Vander Horck to testify.

Vander Horck was a former officer at Lost Hills-Malibu LASD station, and Bryant’s team claimed he also has intimate knowledge of an alleged internal cover-up regarding the graphic photos — allegations the county has called a “conspiracy.” .

“He is expected to testify about the Department’s initial response to the citizen’s complaint, the concerns he expressed regarding the sheriff’s order to remove the photo,” Bryant’s attorneys wrote in a statement. new files.

Her attorneys wrote that they would also testify about “his transfer and temporary demotion to lieutenant at the direction of the sheriff in the weeks following the civilian complaint.”

In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant sued the Los Angeles County Sheriffthe county fire department, the county as a whole, and eight officers in the wake of reports that first responders took and shared photos of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s crash site in January 2020† LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva Admitted to Instructing Staff to delete photos after the crash

Bryant accused the first responders of “negligence” and “deliberately inflicting emotional distress and infringing on her right to privacy.” She is demanding an undisclosed compensation.

Vander Horck was transferred and demoted weeks after the January 2020 crash on Feb. 18, 2020, over the botched handling of a sexual assault investigation at Pepperdine University, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

County attorneys do not believe that any evidence or testimony relating to Vander Horck should be presented at trial.

If their bid to ban him from testifying is rejected by a judge, county attorneys said: “Vander Horck will testify that his transfer had nothing to do with his handling of the January 26, 2020 crash or the crash site photos. , but instead related to his assault on a sexual assault charge.”

And in a witness list that calls more than 50 witnesses to testify, the parties spar about what role Vander Horck could play during the trial. Bryant’s attorneys also called: for citizens who have lodged complaints on showing the crash site photos by LASD officers and LACFD personnel to testify at the trial.

“Exhibit 131 reflects Captain Vander Horck forwarding a chain email with his supervisors regarding the civilian complaint about the photos from his work account to his personal Gmail account,” her lawyers wrote in a recent filing. “Vander Horck’s transfer from Lost Hills Station to the Men’s Central Jail took place three weeks after he expressed concerns about Sheriff Villanueva’s instruction that officers remove photos in exchange for amnesty.”

“Vander Horck testified at the impeachment that he forwarded correspondence with his supervisors to his own Gmail account because he believed he needed to take legal action over the unwanted transfer,” Bryant’s attorney added.

They added that his testimony could show how Villanueva “chose to punish only the person who expressed his concern and waived disciplinary action against those who took pictures of the victims’ remains and shared them.”

At a pre-trial hearing in July, county attorneys are expected to argue that Vander Horck’s testimony is irrelevant.

Plaintiff’s conspiracy theory is false, the county attorneys wrote. “Even if Plaintiff’s whistleblower/retaliation theory were true (it isn’t), evidence of Captain Vander Horck’s opinion of how Sheriff Villanueva handled LASD’s internal investigation or the discipline surrounding the crash site has no affect the actual issues in this case – whether any photographs were distributed in violation of Plaintiff’s rights.”

Lawyers representing both parties did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

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