Luis Li is the attorney representing Vanessa Bryant in a civil case regarding graphic photos showing Kobe Bryant’s body in the aftermath of a grisly helicopter crash. He contends that were shared publicly shown without good reason.
The trial began Wednesday, August 10, 2022, in federal court in Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were on their way to a youth basketball tournament on January 26, 2020, with friends, their family members and a coach when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed into a hillside. There were no survivors. The deceased were Gianna Bryant’s friends and teammates Alyssa Altobelli, 14, and Payton Chester, 13; their parents, John Altobelli, 56, Keri Altobelli, 46, and Sarah Chester, 45; coach Christina Mauser, 39; and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.
The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner issued a report saying Bryant died from blunt force trauma and ruled his manner of death as an accident. He was 41 years old when he died January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California.
The full autopsy report described the brutality of the crash through the injuries it caused, including dismemberment and burns that left several of victims unrecognizable. The victims did not suffer, Bryant’s autopsy report noted.
“These injuries are rapidly if not instantly fatal,” Senior Deputy Medical Examiner Juan Carrillo wrote in the report.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Li Contended That Sharing Graphic Images Unnecessarily Is a Longstanding Problem
Li said that Los Angeles officials’ sharing photos with “no legitimate purpose” was a longstanding problem, according to a statement printed by The Los Angeles Times.
“For decades, the County has tolerated the practice of officers and first responders taking and sharing pictures of deceased human beings for no legitimate purpose,” Li said. “This custom and practice robs grieving families of their Constitutional right to protect the privacy and dignity of their loved ones. We look forward to presenting our case in Court.”
Deputy Joey Cruz was a trainee who, days after the helicopter crash, was captured on surveillance footage showing his phone to a bartender, according to The Los Angeles Times.
2. Li Has Previously Represented Clients in High-Profile Cases
Li’s biography says that he has worked on several high-profile cases. It also lists the case regarding Bryant’s photos. It says:
Luis is currently representing Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, in a privacy and civil rights suit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He has twice earned California Lawyer ‘Attorney of the Year’ Award honors, including for his successful defense of Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, in civil litigation arising from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and for the successful representation of the Norton Simon Museum in a long-running dispute over ownership of two paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
Li was admitted to the State Bar of California on December 16, 1991, according to the state bar’s records.
The Los Angeles Times reported that there was little evidence remaining of the graphic images the suit alleges were displayed in the days after the grisly helicopter crash. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, broke down in tears during opening statements of the trial, according to The Independent, via Yahoo News.
3. Li Was a Former Assistant U.S. Attorney & Worked in Anti-Terrorism Cases
Li’s first job after law school was as a law clerk for Judge Dickran Tevrizian of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, according to his biography. He also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney, his bio says.
“His background as a former assistant United States attorney has served to establish him as a trusted advisor for the most complex cases and sensitive internal corporate investigations,” the biography says.
His cases have included racketeering and organized crime cases and investigations into terrorist groups, his biography says.
From 2002 to 2005, he was chief of the criminal branch of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, where he directed one of the largest prosecutorial agencies in California. Previously, from 1995 to 2002, Luis served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, where he focused on complex, large-scale racketeering and organized crime matters. As deputy chief of the Major Crimes Section and Anti-Terrorism coordinator from 2000 to 2002, he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of organized crime and terrorist groups, including the successful prosecution of several international criminal organizations.
4. Li Is a Partner at Wilson Sonsini, a Well-Known Silicon Valley Law Firm
Li’s law firm, Wilson Sonsini, is best known for its work representing technology clients in the Silicon Valley, according to its website.
The website says:
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s legacy closely traces the birth and evolution of Silicon Valley.
For more than six decades, the firm has represented the technology pioneers associated with virtually every milestone innovation.
Today, Wilson Sonsini is synonymous with ushering promising, innovative companies through their business life cycle.
And as our clients have grown, so has our firm. We now represent many of the largest companies in the world—and thousands of the smallest ones, too.
Before Li joined Wilson Sonsini, he was a litigation partner for Munger Tolles & Olson LLP in the firm’s Los Angeles office, according to his biography.
5. Li Is an Avid Outdoorsman & a Mountain Bike Racer
Luis does not spend all his time working, according to his biography. He has hobbies that take him outdoors and to faraway places, where he completes physical challenges, the bio says.
“Luis has summited Denali and has raced in the Transalp Challenge and La Ruta de los Conquistadors, both considered among the most challenging multi-stage mountain bike races in the world,” the bio says.
The State Bar of California records do not show any disciplinary action taken against Li.
The Times reported that the sheriff’s department did not request an internal affairs investigation until the day after the newspaper reported on the allegations of photo sharing. The sheriff had been made aware of a complaint filed about the graphic photos, the Times reported.
“The sheriff, through his subordinates, promised the deputies involved that they wouldn’t be punished if they came clean and deleted the photos,” the Times reported.
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