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Justin Bieber photographer defended by paparazzo

January 2, 2013 |  2:57 pm

The photographer who died trying to take a picture of Justin Bieber's white Ferrari should be mourned – not used as a symbol in celebrities' fight against paparazzi, said veteran paparazzo Frank Griffin.

"What's the difference between our guy who got killed under those circumstances and the war photographer who steps on a landmine 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."

Trying to pass laws cracking down on paparazzi isn't going to help, Griffin said, because "you can't legislate against lives that are needlessly taken in the course of their employment."

He criticized pop star Bieber for encouraging laws that make his life "more comfortable and protected."

"He thinks he is a step above normal people and he has special rights because of his God-given talents. He believes he has the right to drive down Ventura Boulevard with impunity at 90 mph in his $280,000 sports car," Griffin said. "You have to have priorities. We should pass the laws that save lives not laws that make my life easier."

Photographers' pursuit of celebrity snapshots has become a debate over free speech.

Last summer, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich filed misdemeanor charges against a freelance photographer who allegedly chased Bieber on the 101 Freeway, using the state's harsher anti-paparazzi law.

But a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge threw out the charges, saying the law violated 1st Amendment protections. Passed in 2010, the law punishes paparazzi driving dangerously to obtain images they will sell.

Trutanich believes the law is constitutional and is asking the appeals court to overturn the ruling.

"We are appealing and we'll let the appeal court resolve the issue," said Frank Mantaljan, a spokesman for the city prosecutor.

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Miley Cyrus slams paparazzi in death of Justin Bieber photographer

-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

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