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Board approves settlement in unauthorized crash photos


By City News Services

Two families will divide $2.5 million

The Board of Supervisors this week approved a $2.5 million settlement for two families suing over the unauthorized sharing of photos of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash, in which their loved ones also were killed.

Under the proposed settlement, still subject to court approval, Matthew Mauser stands to receive $1.25 million and siblings J.J. Altobelli and Alexis Altobelli would share another $1.25 million.

Mauser’s wife, Christine, and the Altobellis’ mother, father and younger sister—Keri, John and Alyssa—died in the Jan. 26, 2020, crash that also killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and three others.

A report from the county counsel recommended the settlement to “avoid further litigation costs.”

The county has already spent approximately $1,292,592 in fees and legal costs in the two cases, according to the board letter.

The five-member board approved the payment without comment.

The Altobellis and Matthew Mauser filed separate federal lawsuits against the county alleging they suffered emotional distress after a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that L.A. County sheriff’s deputies and L.A. County firefighters took and shared crash scene photos for purposes outside law enforcement.

“We believe these proposed settlements of $1.25 million are reasonable and fair to all concerned,” said attorney Skip Miller of Miller Barondess. Miller represented the county.

“We are pleased that the Mauser and Altobelli families, who as private citizens suffered the same grief and loss as others, will be able to move forward after these settlements, which are subject to final approval by the Board of Supervisors. We also hope that eventually the other families will be able to do the same.”

Bryant’s widow Vanessa sued Los Angeles County last year, alleging that she and her family suffered severe emotional distress after discovering that sheriff’s deputies snapped and shared gruesome photos of the helicopter crash scene.

The legal fight between Vanessa Bryant and the county intensified when county lawyers sought to have Bryant undergo a psychiatric examination in advance of the trial scheduled for February 2022. Lawyers argued in court papers that she cannot have severe distress from crash photos that neither she nor the public have ever seen. A U.S. Magistrate later denied the county’s motion.