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Justin Bieber assault claim hinges on self-defense, expert says

May 29, 2012 |  1:55 pm

Singer Justin Bieber arrives at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada.

As Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives probe an altercation between pop star Justin Bieber and a photographer Sunday at a Calabasas shopping mall, one legal experts said a key issue is whether Bieber acted in self-defense.

Dmitry Gorin, a former deputy district attorney and now a criminal defense lawyer, said Bieber is the latest celebrity to fall into what he called the “paparazzi trap” in which the star gets into a scene with a photographer who he or she feels has gotten too close.

“These guys will often make it impossible for the celebrity to pass,” Gorin said. 

Because this case would likely be a misdemeanor battery unwitnessed by police, the alleged victim could make a citizen arrest and then prosecutors would decide whether to file charges.

“Bieber could face a charge if he pushed or hit the photographer and it was not in self-defense," Gorin added. "But it is not really a jail-time offense.”

Authorities continued to investigate on Tuesday.

"We would like to talk to all potential witnesses," Capt. Mike Parker said.

Law enforcement sources said they want to get Bieber's side of the Sunday altercation but also are still trying to piece together exactly what happened. The incident occurred in a public area, so officials said they hope there are witnesses who saw what happened.

Detectives were investigating claims by the photographer that Bieber struck him after he snapped photographs of the singer and girlfriend Selena Gomez at the Commons at Calabasas shopping center. 

The photographer complained of pain and was taken by the Los Angeles County Fire Department to a hospital, where he was treated and released, officials said.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, stressed that the probe was in its early stages.

A spokesperson for Bieber did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact detectives at (818) 878-1808. Anonymous tipsters may contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477).


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Photo: Singer Justin Bieber arrives at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images for ABC