Bieber Arrest Videos Remain In Legal Limbo
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – “My clients have no interest in seeing Mr. Bieber’s penis,” media attorney Deanna Shullman told a Miami-Dade Court Thursday morning during a hearing brought by multiple media organizations seeking access to videos recorded by Miami Beach Police of the pop star.
At issue are four clips out of 10 hours of tape that shows Justin Bieber in Miami Beach Police custody. The four video clips in question reportedly show Mr. Bieber during the time he was asked to provide a urine sample to Miami Beach Police as part of his DUI arrest on January 23rd.
Attorneys for CBS4 and its news partner the Miami Herald, along with attorneys for media outlets including CNN and the Associated Press, argued that since the tapes have been turned over to the defense as part of the discovery process in the case; the videos are now public record, and therefore open to being viewed in their entirety.
All of the parties involved, the State Attorney’s Office, Mr. Bieber’s attorney Roy Black, and the media attorneys agreed that the videos are public record. In addition, all parties agreed that Judge William Altfield should view the videos en camera and then make his decision based on what he sees.
Bieber’s attorneys argued that portions of the video should be removed to protect their client’s right to privacy.
“This is not a hard line to draw, all we are asking is that first, the court hold an en camera review,” said one of Bieber’s defense attorneys Howard Srebnick. “Second, that the court hold as a matter of law, a presumptively innocent person, if the police film him or her urinating, there’s no reason for the media to make a spectacle of it, even if the person is a high profile person.”
The defense said the public doesn’t have any right to view the tapes in full and that what would determine if a privacy matter exists that overrides the public records law (Florida Sunshine Law) is the content of the subject matter.
The defense further contended that showing the video of Bieber in jail and submitting to the urine test could “impact public policy where others will not want to submit to urine tests if they are in the view of others and can be shown by the media.”
CBS4/Herald attorney Scott Ponce told the court that the crux of the issue before the court was “do you have the ability the ability to restrict public access to that video?” Ponce continued saying that the Supreme Court made clear that if the video can be held back, it must be spelled out by the Florida Legislature and since the legislature hasn’t done that, the video can’t be held back.
“If part of a public record is exempt, you redact what is exempt and produce everything else,” Ponce told the court. “It sounds like the defendant is urinating in them. I think the issue is do we see his penis or do we not? Under the public records rule, we redact what can be seen, and let the rest out. Put a black bar over it and let the rest out.”
Ponce further pointed out that there is no relevant case law or statute that was cited by the defense in asking for parts of the video to be withheld from the public. Ponce also pointed out that Bieber has himself posted pictures of himself with a bare bottom and others where he’s urinating online.
“Then how can he come here and claim a right of privacy,” Ponce asked the court.
Shullman, the attorney for CNN, the Associated Press, and other media outlets said “the vast majority of the materials are not in dispute. Those materials should be released today.” The judge, while listening to all of the arguments, wasn’t inclined to let any of the materials out on Thursday.
Part of the reasoning behind Judge Altfield’s decision to withhold the materials, temporarily, is the defense said it only received the videos on Wednesday. Ponce suggested that the defense be given until February 26th to review the videos and request any additional footage be withheld, which was agreed to by Judge Altfield.
In the meantime, Judge Altfield ordered the city of Miami Beach to also decline all media requests for the footage until such time that another hearing is held to determine if any of the videos will be permanently withheld.
Judge Altfield said he would review the videos, including any additional ones clips flagged by the defense, and then make a decision on whether to release them.
Officers arrested the hugely popular 19-year-old singer on January 23rd on misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, resisting arrest and driving with an invalid license. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. Police said he and singer Khalil Amir Shariff were also involved in an illegal street drag race in a residential section of Miami Beach.
Breath tests showed that Bieber’s blood-alcohol content was below the .02 legal limit for underage drivers, but toxicology tests revealed the presence of the active ingredient in marijuana and the antidepressant Xanax. A March 3rd trial date has been canceled and will be rescheduled at a future hearing.
The next hearing involving the release of the jailhouse videos will take place on March 4th at 1 p.m. in Miami-Dade County Court.