Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
TMZ Sports reports that the Los Angeles Police Department are looking into allegations that NBA basketball player James Harden attacked a photographer who may have gotten too up close and personal with him. These reports are not unusual with celebrities. Over the years, we’ve lost count of how many times a famous actor or athlete has lost their cool with a photographer and slugged them. Arrests and criminal charges result. In California that can range from simple battery (Penal Code Section 242) to Assault With Means Likely to cause Great Bodily Injury (Penal Code Section 245(a)(4) to Battery with Great Bodily Injury (Penal Code Section 243(d)).
In Harden’s case, there are allegations that he broke the photographer’s finger. If that’s the case then charges could be serious. Perhaps battery with serious bodily injury (California Penal Code Section 243(d)), this is a felony that could be charged as a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law. There’s also an allegation that he broke the photographer’s camera. That could result in a felony vandalism charge under Penal Code Section 594. However, it is important to note that these are just allegations and that Mr. Harden is presumed innocent and no charges have been filed against him at this time.
So what’s the deal with this? After all, these paparazzi photographers are aggressive and annoying. They get up in a celebrity’s face and say or do something to get a rise out of them. Why aren’t they the ones to get into trouble?
The paparazzi often know the lines that they cannot cross. They know what to say and do to get a rise out of a celebrity, usually resulting in them becoming more animated or angry looking. Of course this lends itself to a more interesting photograph that could eventually be sold. The paparazzi cannot make any threats, or make any unwanted physical contact with the subject. But there’s nothing stopping them from following a celebrity down the street, taking photographs or videos as they walk to their car, or anywhere else in public.
It can be difficult for people to keep their cool, and there’s no doubt that it’s unseemly. People, no matter how famous they are, should be able to walk down a public street without being harassed by photographers who are not fans, who only want their picture so they can sell it. It would make anyone angry. But the laws are the laws and those living in the limelight need to do everything they can to keep their cool.