The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider approving $ 2.5 million in compensation for two families who filed a lawsuit over the unauthorized sharing of photographs of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash, which also killed their loved ones.
According to the proposed agreement, which the board of directors will consider on Tuesday, Matthew Mauser will receive $ 1.25 million, and siblings JJ Altobelli and Alexis Altobelli will share another $ 1.25 million. Mauser’s wife, Christina, as well as Altobelli’s mother, father and younger sister – Carey, John and Alyssa – died on January 26, 2020, in a plane crash that also killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and three others.
Altobellis and Matthew Mauser filed separate federal lawsuits against the county, alleging that they experienced emotional distress after a Times investigation revealed that Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Deputies and Los Angeles County Firefighters took and shared photos of the crash site for unrelated purposes. with law enforcement agencies.
“We believe these proposed $ 1.25 million settlements are reasonable and fair for all stakeholders,” said attorney Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, who represented the county. “We are delighted that the Mauser and Altobelli families, who as individuals have suffered the same grief and losses as others, will be able to move forward after these calculations, which are subject to the final approval of the Supervisory Board. We also hope that over time, other families will be able to do the same. ”
The lawsuits are similar to those filed by Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who lost her husband and 13-year-old daughter in a disaster. In testimony released last week, Bryant recounted how Sheriff Alex Villanueva personally assured her that no one would take pictures of her family.
Bryant waged a bitter fight with the county, even using her social media cache to criticize the sheriff and name the deputies involved in the photo scandal.
The struggle has intensified in recent weeks. County lawyers are trying to force Bryant to undergo a psychiatric evaluation ahead of a February 2022 trial. County lawyers argued in court documents that she could not suffer severe distress from pictures of the accident, which she and the public have never seen.
County officials and Los Angeles County attorney Skip Miller have repeatedly emphasized in court documents that none of the photographs were published, in print or on the Internet, and that they were provided only to County employees.
But Bryant scored a legal victory this week, forcing Villanueva and fire chief Daryl Osby to be ousted on the case.
Los Angeles County lawyers tried to block Villanueva’s testimony, claiming that he lacked relevant information that Bryant’s lawyers could not obtain elsewhere. Heads of government are usually not removed because of the potential for abuse and harassment that could prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities.
But US Justice of the Peace Charles F. Eyck denied the county’s argument, saying Villanueva and Osby appear to have “unique, inimitable first-hand knowledge” relevant to the case. The judge limited each statement to four hours.
Bryant’s lawyers said in court documents that they plan to question the sheriff about his involvement in the orders of the deputies to remove the photographs and whether this was done to protect loved ones of those killed in the plane crash or to cover up the misconduct.
The suits, filed by Bryant and the Mauser and Altobelli families, are based on revelations that deputies shared grim photographs of the crash site, despite Villanueva’s assurances that “every possible measure” was taken to “preserve and protect” the Calabasas site, according to court documents.
This became known after the deputy trainee showed images on his mobile phone to visitors to the bar. Citizens complained about the incident, as well as the case where a firefighter showed photographs to a group of non-working firefighters and their partners, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuits allege that the unauthorized photographs were the result of the sheriff’s office and fire department failing to properly train and supervise staff. They name MPs Joey Cruz, Raphael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales, as well as fire captains Arlin Kahan, Tony Imbranda and Brian Jordan among those who shared the photos.
Since the charges were made last year, one of the fire captains has retired, another has been demoted and one is on leave.