A paparazzo photographer faces criminal charges in connection with a high-speed chase of Justin Bieber earlier this month in Los Angeles, marking the first use of a state law designed to clamp down on photographers' reckless pursuit of celebrities.
The City Attorney's office on Wednesday filed four charges against Paul Raef, 30, including reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain, reckless driving, failure to obey a peace officer and following another vehicle too closely.
Raef could not be immediately reached for comment. If convicted, he faces up to one year in county jail and $3,500 in fines.
The charges stem from a July 6 incident where Los Angeles Councilman Dennis Zine, a former police officer, and three other motorists called 911 to report a high speed chase along the 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley.
Prosecutors said responding officers saw a pack of six vehicles pursuing a silver Fisker car, which turned out to be driven by Stratford, Ont. pop star Bieber. A Toyota SUV, owned by Raef, was seen driving at speeds well over 130 km/h across all lanes and on the shoulder, as well as forcing its way into lanes when it had no room to merge safely.
Motorists were forced to brake and swerve to avoid colliding with Raef's vehicle and the others, prosecutors said.
Bieber pulled over when officers signaled to, but Raef did not stop.
Bieber was cited for speeding and released.
Prosecutors said that about 30 minutes later, Bieber called 911 and said he was again being followed by the same Toyota.
California Highway Patrol officers arrived at a downtown Los Angeles parking garage, where other paparazzi had congregated, and found the Toyota with the same licence plate as the one that had chased the singer.
Officers identified Raef as the driver. He scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 9.
Paparazzi pursuit of celebrities has long been identified as a risk in Los Angeles.