The death of a photographer who was struck by a car on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles while trying to photograph Justin Bieber has revived the debate over California’s dormant anti-paparazzi legislation.
Bieber himself revived the debate Wednesday when he released a statement expressing his “thoughts and prayers” to the family of the photographer, who was killed on New Year’s Day after chasing down the 18-year-old pop crooner’s Ferrari.
“Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders, and the photographers themselves,” Bieber said in the statement.
According to CNN, Bieber’s friend was driving the white Ferrari when California Highway Patrol officers pulled it over on the busy freeway for suspected speeding. Bieber -- who performed at New Year's Eve in Times Square -- was reportedly not in the car at the time, but the photographer, whose name has not been released, thought he’d seen the pop star behind the wheel. After he got out of his car and approached the Ferrari to snap photos, police reportedly ordered him twice to go back to his own car.
The man was struck and killed by a car as he was leaving the area. No charges have been filed against the driver of the vehicle that hit him, according to the AP.
In November, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down a new California law aimed at aggressive paparazzi who drive recklessly and endanger the public in pursuit of celebrity photographs. The law was championed by many in the entertainment industry who say California’s paparazzi culture is out of control.
But free speech advocates said the law was unnecessary, and that it could curtail otherwise-legal behavior by photographers and journalists. “If you want to punish a paparazzo for reckless driving, then charge him with reckless driving,” Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, told IBTimes in July. “All you're doing here is taking something that's already illegal and creating a special law that applies only to photographers.”
On Twitter Wednesday, Miley Cyrus sounded off on the debate, coming to Bieber’s defense in a series of grammatically challenged tweets.
“Hope this paparazzi/JB accident brings on some changes in '13 Paparazzi are dangerous! Wasn't Princess Di enough of a wake up call?!,” Cyrus wrote, later adding, “It is unfair for anyone to put this on to Justin's conscious as well! This was bound to happen! Your mom teached u when your a child not/to play in the street! The chaos that comes with the paparazzi acting like fools makes it impossible for anyone to make safe choices."
The criminal case of Paul Raef, the paparazzo who allegedly chased Bieber down a Los Angeles road at 80 miles per hour last summer, was seen to be the first test of California’s anti-paparazzi law -- the toughest in the country -- before it was struck down.
Earlier this month, according to the Hollywood Reporter, attorneys for the state of California said they plan to appeal that decision. While the law was meant to protect celebrities from photographers, the death of a photographer this week is likely to enter the conversation on the Appellate Board.