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Vanessa Bryant sobs during first day of trial over Kobe crash photos



Vanessa Bryant sobbed in a Los Angeles court Wednesday as her attorney described how sheriff’s deputies and firefighters shared photos of her late husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna’s mangled remains after they were killed in a helicopter crash in 2020.

The 40-year-old widow, who wore a fitted black suit and still had a band on her left ring finger, cried into a tissue as the court heard that one deputy even referred to her loved ones as “piles of meat” in a deposition.

“Jan 26, 2020 will always be the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life,” Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said to the jury during opening statements. “County employees explored and took pictures as souvenirs. They poured salt into an unbearable wound.”

Bryant’s federal invasion-of-privacy-suit trial launched Wednesday in federal court more than two years after the NBA Hall of Famer was killed along with the couple’s 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a January 2020 helicopter crash in Calabasas.

She is seeking an unspecified millions in damages in her suit against Los Angeles County over graphic snapshots of the wreck that were allegedly passed around by first responders.

The photos were shared on “at least 28 [Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies] devices and by at least a dozen firefighters,” some of whom touted the photos like trophies “in a bar while pantomiming dismemberment and showing off the photos over cocktails at an awards gala,” Bryant’s lawsuit alleges.

Vanessa Bryant wipes away tears as she speaks during the “Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in Feb. 2020
AFP via Getty Images
Kobe Bryant hold his arms around his daughter Gianna. Both were killed in the helicopter crash in Jan. 2020.
Images of the bodies of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were reportedly shared by LA County first responders, Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit alleges.

Li said that one of the deputies who responded to the crash site walked around the wreckage and snapped close-up photos of the NBA legend’s dismembered body parts.

One deputy took a firefighter up and down the crash site where he identified possible body parts and the firefighter took pictures, Li said.

In one deposition heard in court, Det. Scott Miller said the pictures were sent to him and he asked his wife if she wanted to see the gruesome pictures, but she said no.

“I told her there were piles of meat,” Miller said in an interview and then laughed loudly in the recording.

Vanessa Bryant broke down after hearing the crass comment.

NTSB investigator examines wreckage of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
Bryant’s suit alleges deputies who responded to the crash site walked around the wreckage and photos of the NBA legend’s dismembered body parts.
Firefighters work the scene of a helicopter crash where Kobe Bryant was killed.
Bryant’s attorney said responders shared the images in public.

Miller continued to say that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and others in his department were confronted about deputies sharing the pictures at a bar and with family, but Villanueva denied knowledge of a complaint lodged to his department.

Li said a man who was at a bar in Norco, Calif when he happened to see Deputy Joey Cruz shared the pictures on his iPhone with a bartender. Li played a video of the encounter, which showed the bartender wince and step back in shock when he looked at the phone screen.

Moments later, Cruz was seen laughing at the bar. The man who witnessed Cruz sharing the photo reported it to the sheriff’s office, he said.

Around the same time, Li said, a county firefighter’s wife also reported to fire officials that several first responders were sharing and discussing the graphic crash photos at an awards show.

Capt. Matthew Vander Horch emailed his superiors about the complaint and said he would look into an investigation, Li said. However, the Sheriff’s Department intervened and stopped the investigation, Vander Horch said in a deposition.

The sheriff’s deputies were told to erase everything in their phones and buy new ones, the attorney claimed.

Villanueva was questioned a month after the crash over reports that his deputies were sharing photos. The sheriff said it was not uncommon that deputies would take pictures of the dead bodies at incidents and collect them as keepsakes in “death books.”

In a separate video, Villanueva clarified that only coroners and National Transit Safety Board officials should be permitted to take photos of these types of incidents for investigation purposes only, and that no one else is allowed to.

Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood in 2018.
Vanessa Bryant wiped tears from her eyes during the opening statements of her trial against Los Angeles County on Wednesday.
Vanessa Bryant,  Kobe Bryant, Natalia Bryant and Gianna Bryant attend the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
Kobe Bryant, 41, and Gianna Bryant, 13, were among the nine killed in the 2020 helicopter crash.

“When this type of behavior is tolerated, it creates a culture of callousness,” Li told the jurors, who were selected on Wednesday.

Attorneys representing Los Angeles County wrote in a trial brief that there is no evidence that the images were shared publicly.

US District Judge John Walter John Walter consolidated Bryant’s lawsuit with a similar claim filed by Orange County financial adviser Chris Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and their 13-year-old daughter, Payton, in the accident.

Chester also struggled to keep his composure as his attorney, Jerry Jackson, described the horrific way his wife was found by first responders.

Jackson said Sarah and Peyton’s bodies were found 100 feet away from the main impact site in a ravine. Sarah’s torso was sliced open at the waist and her organs, her private parts, colon, fallopian tubes and intestines were strewn all over the bushes in the ravine and the surrounding areas.

The violent scene was among the photos shared by several sheriffs and fire personnel, Jackson said.

“On Mr. Chester’s darkest said he thought someday, somewhere, somehow, those responsible … will face justice,” Jackson said. “Today is that day.”

Jackson said the devastated father has had a hard time dealing with his wife and daughters deaths and had turned to drinking at one low point.

Judge Walter indicated that the trial would take about a week and would be broken up into two phases, according to City News Service. 

The first phase of the trial would address Bryant’s federal claims that the taking and dissemination of photos by county personnel violated their constitutional rights. The state law claims would be argued during the second phase.

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The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills



The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.

A spokeswoman for the company, Dani Hirsch, said in an interview that for its 2018 application, the company had not conducted any new studies but had submitted “what was already out there.”

In a statement, the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said “the misconception that Plan B works by interfering with implantation can present barriers to broader emergency contraception access. The Plan B labeling correction will help protect continued over-the-counter emergency contraception access and reduce confusion about how Plan B works and further clarify that Plan B does not affect implantation.”

Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.

Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.

According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.

As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.

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Who are Caroline Ellison’s parents? Fraudster’s mom and dad are MIT economists



This apple fell far from the tree.

Caroline Ellison — who pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to her role in the FTX cryptocurrency scandal, which led to the extradition of Sam Bankman-Fried this week — is the daughter of high-profile economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to his curriculum vitae, Ellison’s father, Glenn Ellison, was educated at Harvard, Cambridge and MIT before becoming the Gregory K. Palm (1970) Professor of Economics at the latter. 

In addition to coaching youth softball and his daughters’ middle school math teams, he writes “Hard Math,” a series of textbooks and workbooks about teaching arithmetic to younger students.

Glenn Ellison is also an Elected Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Caroline Ellison’s parents, Glenn and Sara Ellison, outside their Newton, Mass., home in early December.
Robert Miller

Ellison’s mother, Sara Ellison, is also an accomplished academic. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and a mathematical statistics diploma from Cambridge University, her profile shows she completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993. 

Sara Ellison is currently a senior lecturer in the department alongside her husband.

“We were definitely exposed to a lot of economics [growing up],” Ellison, 28, once told Forbes.

Ellison, 28, plead guilty to fraud this week.
Ellison, 28, pleaded guilty to fraud this week.
Twitter / @AlamedaResearch
Caroline Ellison's sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
Caroline Ellison’s sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.

Glenn and Sara Ellison were photographed by The Post outside their home in Newton, an affluent Boston suburb, earlier this month. Armed with several bags, they told reporters they were too “busy” to comment on the FTX scandal.

The eldest of three sisters — including Anna, 25, who now lives in Manhattan’s West Village — Ellison distinguished herself as a precocious math whiz at a young age. 

When she was just 8 years old, she reportedly presented her father with a paper analyzing stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Matthew McDermott
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Robert Miller

She went on to compete in the Math Prize for Girls while at Newton North High School before studying mathematics at Stanford University, where former professor Ruth Stackman described her to Forbes as “bright, focused, [and] very mathy.”

Ellison and Bankman-Fried, 30, crossed paths at the Wall Street trading firm Jane Street. Bankman-Fried’s parents are also both university lecturers, at Stanford in California. They became good friends and she joined Alameda Research, the hedge fund arm of the FTX crypto exchange, in 2018. She then became CEO in 2021. However, the company remained owned 90% by Bankman-Fried and 10% by another member of his circle.

In addition to documenting her supposed foray into polyamory on Tumblr, Ellison once boasted about drug use on social media.

Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Robert Miller

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” she tweeted in 2021.

Ellison reportedly admitted to Alameda employees that FTX had used client funds to bail out the fledgeling hedge fund during a video call in November. She was eventually terminated as CEO by insolvency professional and current FTX CEO John J. Ray III after FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

She pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, and has subsequently been released on $250,000 bail.

Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Twitter / @AutismCapital

Although she could be sent to jail for up to 110 years for her part in the FTX-Alameda scandal — which has been said by federal prosecutors to have lost between $1 billion and $2 billion of customers’ cash — she is thought to have struck a deal with the feds for a much lighter sentence in return for her cooperation.

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Iran condemns Zelensky’s remarks to Congress as ‘baseless.’



Iran has condemned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to the U.S. Congress, warning the Ukrainian leader against further accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia for use in the war.

Mr. Zelensky told Congress on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones “sent to Russia in hundreds” had been threatening Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, a view shared by American and European officials. In Iran, he said, Russia had found an “ally in its genocidal policy.”

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called Mr. Zelensky’s comments “rude” and “baseless.”

“Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless,” Mr. Kanaani said in a statement on Thursday.

Although Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with the weapons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said that the first shipment was delivered in August.

Mr. Zelensky has said that drones used in Monday’s wave of predawn attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities were from a batch recently delivered to Russia by Iran. The strikes came after Biden administration officials said that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership.”

The European Union last week condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities over their roles in supplying the drones that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. That followed a round of sanctions on Iranians over the drone deliveries in October.

Mr. Kanaani “once again emphasizes” that Iran has not supplied military equipment for use in Ukraine, the statement issued on Thursday added, and urged Mr. Zelensky to learn “the fate of some other political leaders” who were happy with U.S. support. It was not clear which other leaders the statement was referring to.

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