Judge throws out anti-paparazzi charges in Justin Bieber chase case
A Los Angeles Superior court judge threw out charges related to a first-of-its-kind anti-paparazzi law Wednesday in the case of a freelance photographer who was charged in connection with a freeway chase involving pop star Justin Bieber.
Judge Thomas Rubinson ruled that while Los Angeles city prosecutors could proceed with two traffic-related charges against Paul Raef, the two counts related to the state law did not pass Constitutional muster.
Passed in 2010, the law punishes paparazzi driving dangerously to obtain images they will sell. But Rubinson said the law violated First Amendment protections by overreaching and potentially affecting such people as wedding photographers or photographers speeding to a location where a celebrity was present.
Attorney David S. Kestenbaum, one of the lawyers representing Raef, said Wednesday he was pleased by the judge's decision, which showed his client was simply doing his job.
"The judge said that when you are talking about people doing their job and yet running the risk of additional criminal punishment, it has a chilling effect from anyone from newsgathers to wedding photographers and even real estate agents," Kestenbaum said. "It just a lesson in constitutional law.
The ruling comes less than six months after Bieber was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol on the 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley and cited for driving his Fisker sports car at high speed. The pop star said then he was being chased by a freelance paparazzo later identified as Raef.
Los Angeles city prosecutors filed charges against the 30-year-old photographer for allegedly chasing Bieber and then speeding off when police tried to pull over both Bieber and Raef.
The charges included four misdemeanors: 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.
With the dismissal of the latter charges, Raef still faces the potential of six months in county jail.
Bieber was involved in another traffic incident Tuesday. He was pulled over in a white Ferarri around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 600 block of Hayward Avenue in West Hollywood and was cited for making an unsafe left turn and having an expired registration, Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
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Photo: Justin Bieber performing Friday in New Jersey. Credit: Mike Coppola / Getty Images