Justin Bieber wants new crackdown on paparazzi
Justin Bieber and his collection of exotic cars have been tantalizing targets for celebrity photographers since the young singer got his driver's license.
A video captured the paparazzi chasing Bieber through Westside traffic in November. When Bieber’s white Ferrari stops at an intersection, the singer turns to one of the photographers and asks: “How do your parents feel about what you do?”
A few months earlier, he was at the wheel of his Fisker sports car when a California Highway Patrol officer pulled him over for driving at high speeds trying to outrun a paparazzo following him.
This pursuit for the perfect shot took a fatal turn Tuesday when a photographer was hit by a car after taking photos of Bieber's Ferrari on Sepulveda Boulevard. And the singer now finds himself at the center of the familiar debate about free speech and the tactics of the aggressive paparazzi.
Ever since Princess Diana’s death in Paris while being pursued by photographers, California politicians have tried drafting laws curbing the behavior of the paparazzi. But some of those laws are rarely used, and attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of others.
On Wednesday, Bieber went on the offensive, calling on lawmakers to crack down.
“Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders and the photographers themselves,” he said in a statement.
It remains unclear if any legislators will take up his call. But Bieber did get some support from another paparazzi target, singer Miley Cyrus.
She wrote on Twitter that she hoped the accident “brings on some changes in '13 Paparazzi are dangerous!”
Last year, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge threw out charges related to a first-of-its-kind anti-paparazzi law in a case involving Bieber being chased on the 101 Freeway by a photographer. Passed in 2010, the law created punishments for paparazzi driving dangerously to obtain images.
But the judge said the law violated 1st Amendment protections by overreaching and potentially affecting such people as wedding photographers or photographers speeding to a location where a celebrity was present.
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 photographer, Paul Raef.
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office is now appealing that decision.
Raef’s attorney, Dmitry Gorin, said new anti-paparazzi laws are unnecessary.
“There are plenty of other laws on the books to deal with these issues. There is always a rush to create a new paparazzi law every time something happens,” he said. “Any new law on the paparazzi is going to run smack into the 1st Amendment. Truth is, most conduct is covered by existing laws. A lot of this is done for publicity.”
Officials have not identified the photographer who was killed Tuesday.
The incident took place on Sepulveda Boulevard near Getty Center Drive shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday. A friend of Bieber was driving the sports car when it was pulled over on the 405 Freeway by the California Highway Patrol for a traffic stop. The photographer arrived at the scene, got out of his car and crossed Sepulveda to take photos. He was hit by a car as he went back across the street to his own car.
Law enforcement sources said Wednesday it’s unlikely charges will be filed against the driver of the car that hit the photographer.
Veteran paparazzo Frank Griffin took issue with the criticism being focused on the photographer as well as others members of the celebrity paparazzi..
“What's the difference between our guy who got killed under those circumstances and the war photographer who steps on a land mine in Afghanistan and blows himself to pieces because he wanted the photograph on the other side of road?” said Griffin, who co-owns the photo agency Griffin-Bauer.
“The only difference is the subject matter. One is a celebrity and the other is a battle. Both young men have left behind mothers and fathers grieving and there's no greater sadness in this world than parents who have to bury their children.”
--Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Frances Merto, girlfriend of the dead photographer, at his memorial along Sepulveda Boulevard. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times