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Court urges charges be reinstated for paparazzo in Bieber chase

An L.A. County judge had ruled that a California anti-paparazzi law that the charges were based on was unconstitutional.

February 03, 2013|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Justin Bieber, shown, was allegedly chased by paparazzo Paul Raef on the 101 Freeway last year.
Justin Bieber, shown, was allegedly chased by paparazzo Paul Raef on the… (Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer…)

An appeals court has recommended that charges be reinstated for a photographer who allegedly chased singer Justin Bieber on the 101 Freeway in the first case involving a California anti-paparazzi law that was deemed unconstitutional by a Los Angeles County judge.

The conclusion of the court's preliminary analysis of the case means that the judge who invalidated the law as a violation of the 1st Amendment must reconsider his decision or stand by it and have the three-judge appeals panel conduct a full hearing.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Rubinson ruled in November that although Los Angeles city prosecutors could proceed with traffic-related charges against Paul Raef, the two other charges related to the anti-paparazzi driving law did not pass constitutional muster.

But City Atty. Carmen Trutanich appealed Rubinson's decision.

The appeals court indicated in its initial analysis last week that the special vehicle code for punishing photographers who drive dangerously to obtain images to sell does not violate the 1st Amendment.

"The statute is not constitutionally infirm because it is neither vague nor over-broad," the panel wrote.

The notice of intent is not an order or a ruling, but the trial judge can revisit the decision based on the preliminary conclusions.

"The city attorney continues to believe that the law is constitutional, protects public safety and welcomes the notice issued by the appellate division," the city attorney's office said in a statement. "We look forward to another opportunity to hear the matter in the trial court."

The appellate division gave Rubinson 15 days to vacate his ruling and hold a hearing. If the judge declines to vacate his decision, the appellate judges will proceed to a briefing and oral arguments.

"We are optimistic that the trial judge will stand by the ruling," Dmitry Gorin, one of Raef's lawyers, said.

In his November ruling, Rubinson said the law passed by the state Legislature violated 1st Amendment protections by overreaching and by potentially affecting such people as wedding photographers or photographers speeding to a location where a celebrity was present.

His ruling came less than six months after Bieber was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol on the 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley and cited for driving his Fisker sports car at high speed. The pop star said he was being chased by a freelance paparazzo later identified as Raef.

Los Angeles city prosecutors filed charges against the 30-year-old photographer for allegedly chasing Bieber and then speeding off when police tried to pull over both Bieber and Raef.

Raef was charged with reckless driving, failing to obey a peace officer, two counts of following another vehicle too closely and reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain.

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