Entertainment & Arts

Bieber photographer in reckless pursuit charge

Justin Bieber
Image caption The 18-year-old pop star topped the UK album charts in June with Believe

A photographer involved in a high-speed chase with Justin Bieber is expected to be charged under new laws intended to clamp down on "reckless" paparazzi.

The Los Angeles City Attorney's office filed four misdemeanour charges against Paul Raef, 30, on Wednesday following an incident on 6 July.

The charges include reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain.

But the new law, which has not been used before, may be challenged.

"We're very confident in our case," said City attorney spokesman Frank Mateljan, adding that the Raef case meets all the criteria spelled out in the law.

However, Douglas Mirell, a leading First Amendment lawyer, said the California law is likely to be challenged vigorously.

He argued that the statute, enacted nearly two years ago, seeks to punish members of the press by a different standard than the average person.

"A fan doing the same thing, trying to get a glimpse of Bieber or taking a photo for their personal photo album might be engaged in the same egregious conduct. But it would fall outside the statute because they were not doing it for a commercial purpose," said Mr Mirell.

Speeding ticket

Four motorists called police on 6 July to report a high-speed chase along the 101 Freeway in California's San Fernando Valley.

Six vehicles were witnessed pursuing Bieber's silver sports car, including Mr Raef's Toyota SUV which was reportedly travelling at more than 80 miles an hour, and weaving across the lanes.

Authorities said motorists were forced to brake and swerve to avoid colliding with Mr Raef's vehicle and the others.

Bieber was signalled to pull over, and was released with a speeding ticket. However, Mr Raef's vehicle did not stop.

Thirty minutes later, the pop star called the police and said he was again being followed by the same Toyota.

California Highway Patrol officers eventually tracked the car to a downtown car park in LA. Mr Raef, who was identified by police as the driver of the Toyota, is expected in court on 9 August.

Charges include reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain, reckless driving, failure to obey an officer and following another vehicle too closely.

If convicted, he faces up to one year in county jail and $3,500 (£2,230) in fines.

More on this story