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Justin Bieber paparazzo charged for pursuit

Pop star Justin Bieber is seen surrounded by cameras in this undated file photo.

July 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A freelance paparazzo has been charged for his involvement in a high-speed freeway pursuit to get photos of pop star Justin Bieber.

Paul Raef, 30, has been charged with four misdemeanor counts 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.

The charges stem from an incident on July 6 when Bieber, driving his $100,000-plus chrome-plated Fisker Karma, was stopped by police for speeding in Studio City. L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine called police after spotting Bieber with a caravan of six paparazzi vehicles following him "going close to 100 mph" and weaving through traffic on the 101 Freeway near Coldwater Canyon.

Prosecutors say motorists were forced to apply their brakes and swerve to avoid colliding with the vehicles, which included a Toyota Rav 4 owned by Raef. CHP officers were able to catch up to the Toyota and the Fisker, directing both vehicles to pull over. Bieber immediately responded by pulling over, but prosecutors say the Toyota sped off.

About 30 minutes later, Bieber called 911 to say that he was once again being followed by the paparazzo in the same Toyota from earlier.

Bieber filed a harassment complaint against one of the paparazzi who chased him down in the incident. The lawsuit claims the photographer was an extremely aggressive driver and put several lives in danger.

The criminal charges filed against Raef mark the first use of the 2010 anti-paparazzi state law that prohibits photographers from endangering the public.

In determining whether to file the charges, prosecutors said they considered Raef's disregard for the safety of others and his prior criminal history.

Arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 9 at the Van Nuys Superior Court. If convicted, Raef could face up to one year in county jail and fines totaling $3,500.

Calls to Raef were not returned, and local celebrity news outlets which often use Raef's photographs have also chosen not to comment on the charges.

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