California Gov. Gavin Newsom passed new legislation on Monday (Sept. 28) that makes it a crime for first responders to take unauthorized photos of deceased people at the scene of a crime of accident. The law arrives after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department leaked photos of the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
“Proud to report that my bill, The Kobe Bryant Act of 2020, was signed today by [Gov. Newsom],” 64th District Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson tweeted.
The law will make it a misdemeanor to take unauthorized photos of crime or accident sites punishable with fines per offense up to $1,000. Associated Press reports that the Kobe Bryant Act will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
As reported by REVOLT, an investigation found that eight sheriff’s deputies took or shared graphic photos from the Calabazas crash site earlier this year. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva ordered that the photos be deleted and said his department has a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos. However, the existing policy did not extend to crash or accident sites.
“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” he told NBC News at the time. “We identified the deputies involved; they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.’’
Earlier this month, Kobe’s widow Vanessa Bryant sued the sheriff and the department over the photos for unspecified punitive damages.
“Ms. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online,” the suit read, adding that Vanessa had suffered severe emotional distress due to the leak. The suit also accused Sheriff Villanueva of actively destroying evidence of the deputies’ wrongdoing by ordering them to delete the photos.