Judge throws out Justin Bieber paparazzo chase case

LOS ANGELES, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Criminal charges filed

against a photographer who pursued teen pop star Justin Bieber

at high speeds on a Los Angeles freeway in July were thrown out

on Wednesday, striking a blow to California's crackdown on

overly aggressive paparazzi.

Celebrity photographer Paul Raef was the first person to be

prosecuted under the state's 2010 law that criminalizes

dangerous driving when taking photos commercially.

Raef was charged in July with two counts of violating the

law stemming from a July 6 incident on a freeway in Los Angeles'

San Fernando Valley.

Dismissing the charges, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge

Thomas Robinson called the state's anti-paparazzi law

"problematic" and "overly inclusive."

The law "sweeps very widely and would increase the penalties

for reckless driving" in unintended cases, Robinson said.

Robinson faulted the law's vague definition of commercial

photography, saying that it could also apply to a photographer

who was speeding to reach an arranged photo shoot with Bieber.

Raef could have faced up to a year in prison and $3,500 in

fines, if convicted. His attorney, Brad Kaiserman, said the law

is "about protecting celebrities."

A message left with Bieber's publicist requesting comment

was not immediately returned.

Raef still faces lesser charges of misdemeanor reckless

driving and failing to obey police orders after he allegedly

pursued Bieber, 18, at high speeds. He will be tried on those

charges at a later date.

Bieber, who was pulled over by police for driving 80 miles

per hour (130 kph) in a 65 mph (105 km) zone, told officers at

the time that he was being hounded by paparazzi, and police said

they noticed Raef's car following the "Boyfriend" singer.

About 30 minutes after the traffic stop, Bieber called

police to report that Raef continued to follow him. Police later

found Raef and other paparazzi together in downtown Los Angeles.

The Canadian singer received a speeding ticket at the time.

(Reporting By Eric Kelsey, editing by Jill Serjeant and Sandra

Maler)

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