Justin Bieber chase: Will criminal charges deter paparazzi?
Frank Griffin, a veteran photographer and head of the Bauer-Griffin Agency, said he doesn't believe the criminal charges filed Wednesday against a photographer who allegedly chased Justin Bieber down the 101 Freeway will have much effect on paparazzi behavior.
The photographer broke the law by driving recklessly -– whether he's a member of the paparazzi or not –- and now must face the charges.
"You break a law, you get arrested," he said. "I just think it was rather stupid.… I don't think, for the sake of a $100 picture, that it's worth a $1,000 fine and community service."
L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich announced Wednesday that freelance photographer Paul Raef, 30, faces four misdemeanor charges in connection with the July 6 incident: reckless driving, failing to obey a peace officer, and two counts of following another vehicle too closely and reckless driving, with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain.
It is the first time prosecutors have filed a case under the state's harsher anti-paparazzi law.
But Jody Armour, a professor at the USC Gould School of Law who is an expert on criminal defense and celebrity trials, said he fears the prosecution could have a "chilling effect" on other news-gathering practices –- and which agencies are allowed to pursue information.
"We're giving a lot of power to the government to tell people how we can observe people in public places," Armour said. "It's easy to hate the paparazzi, but in some ways they really represent an interest other than themselves."
Authorities say Raef was one of several paparazzi following the 18-year-old pop star as he drove his chrome Fisker Karma sports car through the San Fernando Valley on July 6. Several people, including L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine, called 911 to report the chase.
California Highway Patrol officers spotted Bieber and the entourage crossing all lanes of the freeway at speeds greater than 80 miles per hour and activated their lights for a traffic stop, according to a statement from the city attorney's office. Bieber pulled over, but a Toyota Rav 4 -– later determined to be Raef's -– was among the vehicles that fled the scene.
About 30 minutes after Bieber was ticketed, the statement said, he called 911 and said he was again being followed by a Toyota involved in the previous pursuit.
-- Kate Mather