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Prosecutors appeal anti-paparazzi charge dismissal

Posted: December 12, 2012 6:00 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2012 6:00 p.m.

In this Nov. 18 photo, Justin Bieber accepts the award for favorite album - pop/rock for "Believe" at the 40th Anniversary American Music Awards, in Los Angeles.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Prosecutors on Wednesday appealed the dismissal of anti-paparazzi driving charges against a photographer accused of recklessly chasing Justin Bieber on a Los Angeles freeway earlier this year.

The appeal argues that Superior Court Judge Thomas Rubinson erred last month when he dismissed two counts filed under California's 2010 anti-paparazzi law against Paul Raef, a freelance photographer. The judge dismissed the charges on grounds that the 2010 law used to charge him was overly broad and violates the First Amendment.

The judge's ruling could set "a dangerous precedent" that newsgatherers can drive recklessly without facing stiffer penalties, the prosecutors' filing states.

The law raised the penalty for those who drive dangerously in pursuit of photos for commercial gain, but Rubinson said that could be applied to wedding photographers and many other professions.

The offense is punishable by six months in jail and a $2,500 fine but went unused until Raef was involved in the freeway chase of Bieber that topped 80 mph and prompted several 911 calls.

Raef's attorneys, David S. Kestenbaum and Brad Kaiserman had not yet been served with the appeal and could not immediately comment on it.

Rubinson said when ruling on Nov. 14 that lawmakers should have simply raised the penalties for all types of reckless driving. The appeal states the judge should have deferred to the way California lawmakers decided to target reckless driving by paparazzi.

"It was not the trial court's role to substitute its views for those of the Legislature and strike down a valid statute because it felt there were other 'effective' ways to address the problem," the filing states.

Raef still faces traditional reckless driving charges for the July chase involving Bieber on a freeway. That case is temporarily on hold. Raef has not yet entered a plea.

The law used to charge Raef was influenced by the experiences of Jennifer Aniston, who provided details to a lawmaker on being unable to drive away after she was surrounded by paparazzi on Pacific Coast Highway.

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