Trial with photos of Kobe Bryant: Testimony from Rob Pelinka and a bartender who saw graphic images

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Thursday was an emotional day for Vanessa Bryant as she listened to testimony in a trial over unauthorized photos of Kobe following his death in the 2020 helicopter crash.

The first witness was Rob Pelinka, the current general manager of the Lakers and Kobe’s former agent and close family friend.

He choked while talking about what happened in the hours after the crash on January 6, 2020.

He says he met up with Vanessa and they drove together to the crime scene in Calabasas.

He said there were security guards in the area. Days later, when he learned of possible unauthorized photos of the scene, he was devastated.

RELATED: Vanessa Bryant’s attorney argues photos of Kobe Bryant’s remains were shared ‘for a laugh’

To this day he worries that photos could be posted at any time, and that’s frightening.

He says he wishes all photos could be “destroyed from the universe.”

Another witness was Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff’s Department David Katz, who was one of the first people on the scene that day.

He says when he arrived instructions were given that no one was allowed to take photos of the crash site.

He testified that he spoke to a deputy at the scene, who told him he had already taken more than 100 photos.

Katz also testified that prior to this incident, it was common practice for law enforcement to take pictures of scenes, but there was no official policy on how those photos should be handled or deleted afterwards. Katz said he didn’t take any photos and didn’t share any photos.

At the end of the day, several people testified that they saw photos of human remains at the crash site. Among them was Victor Gutierrez, who was a bartender at the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk. He says Deputy Joey Cruz showed him graphic photos of the remains two days after the crash. There is surveillance video showing Cruz in a white t-shirt on the left.

At this point, Vanessa Bryant had to leave the courtroom in tears.

The bartender then described some of the photos. He said he saw the remains of the victims and was shocked.

A lawyer said Cruz appeared to be laughing in the video. Gutierrez denied they laughed at the bodies. He said he felt that maybe Cruz showed the photos because he needed to talk about it to get it out of his system.

He said he couldn’t remember all the details of what was said because it was a long time ago.

Among the witnesses scheduled to testify Friday is Doug Johnson, the deputy who took more than 100 pictures right after the crash.

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Trial with photos of Kobe Bryant: Testimony from Rob Pelinka and a bartender who saw graphic images

Laura Coffey

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