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Kanye West faces misdemeanor charges in LAX scuffle with paparazzi

March 19, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

The Los Angeles city attorney filed misdemeanor charges Wednesday against rapper-producer Kanye West and his road manager in connection with a scuffle with paparazzi at Los Angeles International Airport in September.

West, 31, was charged with one count each of misdemeanor vandalism, grand theft and battery. Don Crawley, 33, faces two counts each of the same charges.

If convicted on all counts, West could face a maximum of two years and six months in L.A. County Jail and Crawley could face up to five years behind bars. They are scheduled to be arraigned April 14 at the Airport Courthouse.

The decision by city prosecutors to pursue several charges comes six months after the L.A. County district attorney's office declined to pursue felony charges.

Attorney Blair Berk, who is representing West, had no comment on the city's decision to file criminal charges. A spokesman for City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo released a statement detailing the charges.

West and Crawley were arrested at LAX the morning of Sept. 11, 2008, on suspicion of felony vandalism after they confronted two paparazzi outside the passenger screening area in Terminal 4 and smashed the men's cameras, authorities said.

The confrontation started when a TMZ videographer and a photographer from a paparazzi agency approached West and Crawley outside the terminal as they prepared to catch a commercial flight to Honolulu, officials said.

In video captured by a TMZ employee, West and Crawley are shown yelling at the paparazzi and struggling with the photographer for his camera and its flash before slamming the equipment to the ground. As the TMZ videographer continued to shoot, Crawley appeared to grab at the video camera.

The confrontation was one in a string of incidents involving stars and aggressive photographers -- a situation that last year led both the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department to announce crackdowns on paparazzi behavior.

LAX, in particular, has become a hot spot for paparazzi who roam meet-and-greet areas of the terminals looking for easy targets.

Over the summer, Britney Spears was surrounded by 60 photographers who were pushing, shoving and knocking one another down to get a clear shot of the pop star after she arrived from Atlanta.

In the same week that West got into his scrape, a large contingent of paparazzi mobbed Spears' younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, who had just given birth. The photographers were left scrambling when a woman who looked like Jamie Lynn, holding what they thought was a baby, led some of them in another direction while Jamie Lynn got away.

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andrew.blankstein @latimes.com

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