While L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine thought Justin Bieber should have been arrested for what he said was a 100-mile-per-hour exhibition of speed with paparazzi in tow on an L.A. freeway this month, the L.A. City Attorney has instead targeted one of the photographers.
Paul Raef, a 30-year-old freelance paparazzo, was charged with a litany of counts in connection with his alleged chasing of Bieber as he sped in his chrome Fisker Karma on the 101 freeway in Sherman Oaks on the morning of July 6.
Prosecutors say it will be the first use of a new state law prohibiting paps from driving dangerously in pursuit of the almighty shot. Here's the list of charges against Raef from the City Attorney's office press statement:
… Two counts of Vehicle Code section 40008 (a), for both following another vehicle too closely and reckless driving, with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain; one count of reckless driving; and one count of failing to obey the lawful order of a peace officer.
If convicted he could face up to one year behind bars and a $3,500 fine.
Prosecutors say Raef's alleged “disregard for the safety of others on the road and the Defendant's prior criminal history” were factors in throwing the book at him.
According to the office:
The case represents the first prosecution in the State under AB 2479. In 2010, the California legislature passed AB 2479 (D-Karen Bass), which imposes additional penalties on paparazzi driving dangerously in search of photos …
Prosecutors say Raef was driving his Toyota Rav 4 in excess of 80 in pursuit of Biebs, at times even running on the shoulder. When Bieber was pulled over, the CHP officer in question also ordered the Rav 4 to stop too, but prosecutors allege that Raef gunned it and escaped.
Biebs apparently later figured out who it was and filed a complaint against the shooter with the CHP. TMZ also reported at the time that the photog actually showed up later that day at a Bieber video shoot.
The City Attorney's office says Raef was actually nabbed about 30 minutes after the chase when the Rav 4 was spotted following the pop singer again and cops were called … again.
No word on what this might do to Raef's driving privileges.
[Added at 12:20]: City Attorney's spokesman Frank Mateljan tells us the case will probably also put Raef's drivers license in jeopardy, although he's not sure if it is currently suspended as a result of the alleged chase.
Raef, by the way, wasn't arrested. Rather, he was sent a “voluntary appearance” letter informing him of the charges and telling him he's due in court Aug. 9 in Van Nuys, according to Mateljan.