Vanessa Bryant plans to donate the proceeds of the $16 million verdict she won Wednesday in a Los Angeles County lawsuit to a foundation named after her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna, it was reported today.
The non-profit organization Mamba and Mambacita Sports provides sports education to underserved athletes. Started in 2016 as the Mamba Sports Foundation – the Lakers great’s nickname was Black Mamba – the charity was renamed in 2020 to honor the Bryants’ 13-year-old basketball-playing daughter, Gianna, who died in the helicopter with her father in January 2020 crash that triggered the lawsuit against the county.
After an 11-day trial, a Los Angeles County Los Angeles County jury on Wednesday ordered a total of $31 million to pay Bryant and an Orange County man who lost his daughter and wife in the crash to the mental anguish caused by photos that sheriff’s deputies and firefighters took and shared the bodies of the crash victims.
Bryant got $16 million and Chris Chester $15 million. Bryant’s attorney said she gave her share to the foundation as a way to “shine a light on Kobe and Gigi’s legacy,” according to The Los Angeles Times.
“From the beginning, Vanessa Bryant has only sought accountability, but our legal system does not allow her to enforce better policies, more training or officer discipline,” her attorney Luis Li said in a statement to the Times.
“Those measures are the responsibility of the sheriff and firefighters — responsibilities that have exposed Ms. Bryant’s efforts as woefully inadequate, even giving amnesty to the violators.”
He added that Bryant “never hesitated, even when the county tried to force her to undergo an involuntary psychiatric evaluation.”
In the statement, Li said Bryant is “deeply grateful” to citizens Ralph Mendez and Luella Weireter, who respectively complained to the sheriff and the fire department about the sharing of photos. Mendez reported that a sheriff’s deputy showed photos of the crash scene to a bartender in Norwalk, while Weireter reported that firefighters shared the photos at an awards ceremony in Universal City.
Li said the pair “revealed the decades-old practice of taking and sharing photos of accident and crime victims for no legitimate purpose.” He added: “It is Ms Bryant’s hope that this important civil rights case will put an end to this abhorrent and heartless behavior.”
Attorneys for Bryant and Chester showed the jury how the photos had spread from the phones of officers and firefighters at the accident site on a remote hillside in Calabasas on Jan. 26, 2020.
Li’s statement did not specify the exact amount the foundation would receive.
City News Service contributed to this report.