Lindsay Lohan's "terrifying" incident involving Christian LaBella in New York over the weekend was reportedly sparked when the actress unhappily learned her guest had been taking cellphone photos of her, a discovery that allegedly led to a physical altercation.
So did Lindsay have a right to get upset over the pictures? A photography attorney says most likely yes, though the 26-year-old would have to prove in court that she had an expectation of privacy under the circumstances.
LaBella, 25, allegedly tried to grab his phone back from the actress as she was deleting those newfound photos in the wee hours Sunday, with choking and pushing and more alleged to have occurred before he finally left, according to Nation Now. Lohan — who'd reportedly locked herself in the bathroom at one point and left at another, only to run into LaBella again — triggered the hotel fire alarm as he finally fled, police told the New York Daily News.
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LaBella was arrested and then unarrested, and ultimately midemeanor assault charges against him were dropped after Lohan refused medical treatment and police decided nobody had been injured.
So back to that expectation of privacy: Yes, such an expectation is actually still possible, even if a person has been hanging out with brand-new friends in a hotel room at 4 a.m. after a night of clubbing, according to Carolyn E. Wright of PhotoAttorney.com. It all depends on the details of the situation.
"If she knew he was taking pictures and didn't stop him, then she doesn't have an expectation of privacy," Wright said Monday. He could even email them to friends or sell them to a tabloid without running into legal trouble, she said, as long as he didn't go so far as to turn them into a coffee mug, T-shirt or stock-photo image.
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However, if the pictures were being taken surreptitiously in the hotel room, it could be a whole different ballgame, with Lilo in the right regarding any images.
"She'd have to show in front of a jury that she had an expectation of privacy" when the pictures were taken, Wright said.
Also, "the understanding [of privacy] doesn't need to be vocalized," Wright said. "It's more of a stuation of what was happening at the time."
For example, if a person were, say, naked in a hotel room and he or she was not intentionally posing for cameras — and keep in mind, we have absolutely no reason to believe Lindsay pulled any kind of Prince Harry at the W hotel — there would be no legal need to expressly say "don't take pictures" to establish privacy. It would just go with the territory.
"Right now, we're just glad Lindsay's injuries were only minor," Lohan spokesman Steve Honig told the Ministry on Monday. "It was a terrifying experience for her and it's unfortunate it isn't being taken more seriously."
LaBella's uncle, Peter Jessop, told the New York Daily News his nephew, reportedly a congressional aide, was "a decent kid" who was now the target of "a full-scale witch hunt."