Miami - The Associated Press and other media outlets urged a judge on Tuesday to grant access to police videos made shortly after pop singer Justin Bieber's arrest last month in Florida on driving under the influence and other charges.
The news organizations said in a motion filed in Miami-Dade County court that the 19-year-old has no legal basis to prevent release of the videos, taken at the Miami Beach police station after he was booked on 23 January. Bieber's attorneys have asked a judge to allow them to review the videos before their potential release.
Attorney Deanna Shullman, who represents the AP and the other news organizations, said in the filing that Bieber cannot legally compel a state agency to withhold a public record and that his attorneys have not identified any exemption that would apply. In addition, she said the law would permit only certain portions of the videos to be withheld or redacted if they were exempt or deemed confidential.
No privacy rights
"Quite simply, the defendant's private will does not trump Public Records Act mandates," Shullman said in the motion.
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday on the matter. The office of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has denied the AP's request for the videos pending the outcome of the hearing, Shullman said.
Bieber has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, resisting arrest and driving with an expired license. Police say he and R&B singer Khalil Amir Sharieff were 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 legal limit for underage drivers, but toxicology tests revealed the presence of the active ingredient in marijuana and the antidepressant Xanax. A March trial date has been scheduled.
Videos could harm Bieber's image
Bieber's attorneys said in their motion that Bieber would suffer "irreparable harm" if the videos are not reviewed by them before their release. One video was previously released by police, showing Bieber being patted down by an officer after his arrest. There are eight other unreleased videos.
If the recordings are released, the AP would review the content and determine what, if any, of it would meet the news cooperative's standards for publication.
Defendants in criminal cases often ask judges to limit release of evidence to the public, but typically they claim their right to a fair trial would be jeopardized. Bieber's claim is unusual because it involves privacy rights. Bieber's lawyers have said the videos may depict him "in various states of undress" that should not be made public.
In their own filing Tuesday, prosecutors said that although there is no general right of privacy in jail, a defendant could expect that the public should not see any embarrassing information from a jail setting. The prosecution wants the judge to view the tapes before deciding whether all or parts of them should be withheld.
Besides the AP, the following news organizations have joined in the motion seeking release of the videos: the Orlando Sentinel, Scripps Media Inc. representing the Naples Daily News, the St. Lucie News Tribune, Stuart News, TCPalm.com, the Vero Beach Press Journal, WPTV-TV, WFTS-TV; and the SunSentinel Co.
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