LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A freelance paparazzo was charged on Wednesday with driving recklessly after speeding through a Los Angeles freeway to photograph pop star Justin Bieber earlier this month, the first use of a new anti-paparazzi law.
Celebrity photographer Paul Raef is being charged under a 2010 California law that penalizes paparazzi for dangerous driving when taking photos for commercial gain.
Raef was charged with two counts of violating the new law, as well as single counts of reckless driving and failing to obey police orders, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
He could face up to a year in prison and $3,500 in fines if convicted of the charges, and will be arraigned in August.
The charges stem from a July 6 incident in which Bieber, 18, was pulled over and cited by the police for driving 80 miles per hour (130 km per hour) in a 65 mph zone in his Fisker Karma sports car on Los Angeles’ 101 Hollywood freeway.
The singer, whom police described as polite and cooperative at the time, told officers he was being chased by paparazzi, and police said they saw a second car pursuing Bieber’s automobile that sped away without being stopped.
Thirty minutes after the incident, Bieber called police to report that he was being followed again by the same paparazzo, and officers found Raef and other photographers gathered in downtown Los Angeles.
Bieber’s speedy driving caught the attention of a Los Angeles city councilman, Dennis Zine, who happened to be on that portion of the freeway at the same time and called 911. Zine told reporters earlier this month that Bieber was “driving in a careless, reckless fashion.”
Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Dale Hudson