Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit this week against the company operating the helicopter that crashed into a hillside last month, killing her husband, Kobe; daughter Gianna; and seven others. The suit was filed on the same day 20,000 fans gathered at a memorial for the Los Angeles Lakers icon, 41, and Gianna, 13—featuring eulogies from Vanessa, Kobe’s wife of 20 years, and Michael Jordan. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Island Express Helicopters and the estate of veteran pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, accusing him of recklessly flying in dense fog to take the Bryants and Gianna’s teammates to a basketball game. Although Zobayan amassed 8,000 hours of flying and frequently worked as Bryant’s pilot, the suit cites his 2015 infraction for flying in poor visibility. Preliminary reports found no mechanical failure to explain why Zobayan’s helicopter plunged at a high speed before crashing.
Costa Mesa, Calif.
A federal judge temporarily blocked quarantined Covid-19 patients from being moved to a medical facility in Costa Mesa this week, saying officials must do more to allay local fears about an outbreak. Outside the courthouse, protesters held signs reading “Don’t turn our city into another Wuhan.” The Costa Mesa facility would house patients currently at an Air Force base who’ve tested positive but don’t show symptoms. Yet it’s surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and an outbreak could devastate tourism tied to nearby Disneyland. Anniston, Ala., also fought against housing some of the 50-plus patients with Covid-19 in the U.S., including at least 14 Americans infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. The State Department’s decision to let those patients into the U.S. infuriated President Trump, who was not given advance notice that they would be allowed into the country.
Salt Lake City
Utah lawmakers moved closer this week toward decriminalizing polygamy among consenting adults. A bill to change polygamy from a felony to an infraction akin to a traffic violation passed the state Senate unanimously. Advocates for the change said victims of spousal abuse in polygamous marriages fear reporting crimes because bigamy is currently a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Other supporters said the ban persecutes Fundamentalist Mormons, numbering about 30,000 across the western U.S., who believe polygamy is rewarded in heaven. “We need to stop marginalizing a whole group of people in our state,” Republican State Sen. Deidre Henderson said, calling it a “human rights crisis.” The church’s torment over modernizing also played out last week at Brigham Young University, where a ban on displays of “homosexual feelings,” such as holding hands or kissing, was lifted.
Daredevil stuntman “Mad” Mike Hughes died last week when his homemade, steam-powered rocket nose-dived into the desert, ending his mission to prove Earth is flat. Hughes, 64, hoped to blast 5,000 feet into the sky and parachute to safety, but his drag chute tore off upon takeoff. He flew in a long arc and crashed, witnessed by about 60 people on hand. His stunts were sponsored by the Research Flat Earth group and were meant to generate funding for Hughes’ dream of a “rockoon”—a rocket-balloon—that would launch him 62 miles to the edge of space, where he hoped to photograph the shape of the planet. Having set the Guinness World Record in 2002 for jumping a stretch limo 103 feet, Hughes moved to rockets, soaring 1,875 feet in 2018. “I don’t believe in science,” he said. “You start finding these places that’s flat on this planet. Kansas is flat, I’m telling you.”
Off the scale
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused her conservative colleagues of “putting a thumb on the scale” in favor of the Trump administration, prompting Trump to demand that Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sit out cases involving him. Sotomayor’s comment came in a scathing dissent after the court voted 5-4 to let Trump’s immigrant wealth test take effect in Illinois. Sotomayor slammed the court for hearing the Trump administration’s appeal on an emergency basis. The Trump White House makes emergency appeals more frequently than the two previous administrations, and “its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow,” Sotomayor wrote. Trump said she was trying to “shame” justices into voting with her, adding on Twitter that Sotomayor and Ginsburg, who called Trump a “faker” during the 2016 campaign, “should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related, matters!”
The Trump administration has assembled lists of disloyal officials to purge and replace with pro-Trump alternatives, Axios.com reported this week. The lists identify “snakes” and “bad people” across the bureaucracy, but especially “deep state” intelligence officials, sources said. Trump confirmed the lists exist, adding that he wants “people who are good for the country, loyal to the country.” The selection of names was done largely by conservative activists, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia. Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former body man and now his personnel director, asked federal officials last week to out anti-Trump colleagues for staff purges that he said were likely after the election. Last week, deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates was transferred to the Energy Department, following accusations that she was behind an anonymous 2018 op-ed describing a Trump resistance within the administration. ■