Turns out the same Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy who is accused of improperly taking and sharing photos of NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s dead body is also involved in another scandal, and Vanessa Bryant’s legal team wants it known. According to TMZ the deputy was shown on video kneeling on the head of a jail inmate for three minutes in March 2021.
Here's the footage of Deputy Douglas Johnson kneeling on the head of Enzo Escalante, leaked to Knock LA. @AleneTchek reported on claims that Sheriff Villanueva directed a cover-up of the investigation of this use-of-force & is now the subject of a department investigation. pic.twitter.com/ELj7K2N7Yq
— Knock LA (@KnockDotLA) April 27, 2022
Deputy Douglas Johnson was relieved of his duty last year, according to the sheriff’s department. But he remains part of the legal dispute between Vanessa Bryant and Los Angeles County.
Bryant’s widow filed suit against the county in September 2020 and accused sheriff and fire department workers of improperly taking and sharing photos. This was eight months following the tragic death of Kobe and her daughter Gigi in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
No doubt Bryant’s legal team would like this evidence admitted as part of their case as it would speak to Johnson’s character. Also with public sentiment skewing negatively toward police this would be yet another example of law enforcement failing to “protect and serve.”
Los Angeles County is of course fighting to make this piece of information inadmissible and has already cited relevance as the chief reason to keep it excluded.
“The March 2021 County jail incident has nothing to do with this case, which centers on allegations that the County violated Plaintiff’s rights by taking and sharing photos of the January 26, 2020 helicopter crash,” the county stated in court documents. “Nonetheless, (Bryant) will not agree not to introduce evidence or argument about this separate incident.”
The legal system is a slippery slope and the best attorneys know how to navigate their way around laws with technicalities.
Vanessa Bryant filed suit against the county and that suit is about rights being violated by the taking and sharing of photos. The actions of deputy Johnson in 2021, though heinous and a violation of civil rights, have nothing to do with the lawsuit where Bryant is the plaintiff.
The trial is set to begin next month and a judge could rule on the matter before trial.
It will be interesting to see what the judge decides and how much information about the March 2021 incident impacts his decision. Because while the incident occurred in March 2021, it didn’t become public knowledge until March 2022. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department engaged in a coverup of the incident, as reported by the L.A. Times.
That the sheriff’s department was involved in a coverup is no surprise. What remains to be seen is how will the courts handle it.
While this may not be your typical story of over-policing or use of excessive force, this case is about abuse of power. Police departments, particularly big city forces, like LA have run amok unchecked for decades. They get away with their behavior because of unions, favorable prosecutors, judges, and politicians. Many of whom are actors within the legal system.
If a judge allows the March 2021 incident to be included it would be akin to placing the entire sheriff’s department on trial, so to speak. That would greatly benefit Vanessa Bryant’s legal team.