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Day 4 of Vanessa Bryant trial: Rough day for her opponents as deputies testify

  • August 16, 2022

civil trial against Los Angeles County. But it was the first day that multiple county sheriff’s and fire department employees would be required to get up on the witness stand and answer questions in front of her about what they did.

It wasn’t pretty. One witness, a retired fire captain named Brian Jordan, stepped down off the witness stand three times in distress Monday after being asked about taking photos at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant’s daughter and husband Kobe, the NBA legend.

Jordan claimed not to remember anything about the crash scene even though he was there and took photos of what he saw.

crash-scene photos to a bartender at a restaurant two days after the crash.

“I took it too far,” he said, saying he was under stress at the time and “overwhelmed.”

But he also gave conflicting testimony about what he showed the bartender and what he remembered about it.

The bartender, Cruz’s friend, testified last week that Cruz asked him if he wanted to see a photo of Bryant’s dead body.  Cruz disputed that Monday in front of the jury of five men and four women.

highlight their names in a public post, bringing them unwanted attention and in some cases harassment.

On Monday, she finally faced three of them in court when they testified for the first time at trial. Unlike previous days in this trial, she did not break down or leave the court room to avoid graphic testimony. She instead took notes and appeared eager to hear how they would answer for their actions.

Joey Cruz’s testimony

Cruz was a deputy trainee when he and Mejia responded to the radio call of the crash that day. Later that night, Cruz received crash-scene photos from Mejia, who received them from Versales, who received them from another deputy who had hiked to the scene of the crash: Douglas Johnson.

Johnson testified on Friday that he took about 25 photos including those that contained close-up shots of human remains.

Why did deputy take close-up photos of body parts?

DAY 2 OF TRIAL:Vanessa Bryant leaves court during testimony about crash photos shared at bar after Kobe’s death

DAY 1 OF TRIAL:Tears, testimony and details about deadly crash

Brian Jordan’s testimony

Jordan did not want to testify and had fought having to do so. His attorneys even stated in court records this month that Jordan had been “ordered by his doctors to refrain from discussing this tragic event due to the toll it has taken on his psychological health.”

But U.S. District Judge John F. Walter denied his attempt to get out of it, and there Jordan was on the witness stand Monday as the day’s first witness.

county’s position is that the photos were not publicly disseminated and never were posted online after being deleted.

Versales testified he did not know Kobe Bryant was among the dead when he received the photos from Johnson. Versales also said he did not request those photos from Johnson even though Johnson testified Friday that Versales did ask him to take photos from the crash site.

After passing the photos along to other sheriff’s personnel, including Mejia, Versales said he deleted them that night.

“I did not need to have photographs,” Versales testified in a pretrial deposition.

On Monday, Versales gave a different account.

“Later after thinking about it … I later on thought I needed it,” he testified Monday, explaining he needed the photos to pass along to others.

After Versales completed his testimony Monday, Mejia got on the witness stand and said he sent crash-scene photos to Cruz so that he could use them to write a reporter later if necessary, which he never did. Mejia said he would do things differently now by making sure the photos were needed for a report.

“I regret it,” Mejia testified.

Lavoie later told Mejia that many prior statements he made in this case were untrue.

“It’s not that I was intentionally trying to lie about anything,” he said. “It’s lapse in memory.”

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com.

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