California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved legislation on Monday that bans taking unauthorized photos of deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime. The decision follows Kobe Bryant's death in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash. Allegations surfaced that eight deputies from the LA County Sheriff's Office had shared photos of the crash site where Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died.
According to CBS News, the law will take effect on Jan. 1 and make taking unauthorized photos a misdemeanor. Only photos for law enforcement purposes are allowed under the new. The infraction carries a fine up to $1,000 per offense. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at the time that he was shocked by the scandal and that he ordered the photos deleted. He also said that the department had a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos but that it did not apply to accident scenes.
The allegations originally surfaced amid reports by the Los Angeles Times and TMZ. Both outlets alleged that one of the deputies involved, a trainee, had shared photos of the crash site at a bar only a few days after the tragedy occurred. A source told the publication that the deputy was allegedly trying "to impress a girl by showing her the photos," per a source.
"The sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act," the LA County Sheriff's Office's statement said at the time, per ABC News. "A thorough investigation will be conducted by the department, with the number one priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families."
Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, also responded to the allegations with a statement through her attorney. The statement said that she was "absolutely devastated" by deputies publicly disseminating the photos of the crash site. Vanessa's attorney also called for the deputies involved to "face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated."
Vanessa filed a lawsuit against the LA County Sheriff's Office in late September due to "severe emotional distress." She claimed in the lawsuit that Sheriff Villanueva tried to cover up the incident by telling deputies they would not face punishment if they deleted the photos. The lawsuit claimed that the deputies took the photos for their own personal gratification. TMZ learned of the lawsuit but did not provide the amount of money Vanessa is seeking.