The fight between Justin Bieber’s lawyers and a collective of news media organizations over access to jail footage of the singer after his arrest last month on driving under the influence and other charges intensifies.
On the heels of Bieber’s lawyers motion asking a judge to make an order prohibiting public disclosure of video tapes, and prosecutors’ asking the judge to view the tapes to ‘balance the public’s interest’ against the defendant’s privacy rights before deciding if all or parts should be withheld — media outlets have now filed their own motion.
On Tuesday, The Associated Press and other media outlets filed a motion in Miami-Dade County Court stating the 19-year-old has no legal grounds to prevent the release of the CCTV videos filmed at the Miami Beach police station after he was arrested on January 23.
The media’s motion urges the judge to grant access to the police videos and states the AP would review the content to determine what — if any — would meet the news co-operative’s standards for publication.
Miami Beach Police released one jail video on February 6 without Bieber’s lawyers prior notification. It showed the singer getting a pat down by an officer after removing his outer clothing.
There are eight further unreleased videos.
It is these eight videos that concerns Bieber’s Miami legal team, led by high-profile lawyer Roy Black.
The day after the first police jail video was released the Canadian’s lawyers filed an Instant Preliminary Motion to prevent further jail video being released, which stated:
“While in custody at the Miami Beach police station the defendant was captured on videotape in various states of undress which show intimate personal parts of the defendant’s body.”
The singer’s lawyers added the Florida constitution and statutes prevented these types of images from being made public. They have asked the judge to allow them to review the videos before their possible release.
Bieber’s legal’s motion asked the Florida County Court to order a stay on disclosure of all public records containing electronic media of him while he was in custody at the station, to prevent “irreparable harm” before the public records hearing.
The hearing has been set for Thursday, February 20, before Miami-Dade County Judge William Altfield.
The documents named the Miami Beach Police Department, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, and media as parties included in the order.
Further information stating Bieber is seen urinating “stumbling and going to the bathroom” in a holding cell, came via a law enforcement source to TMZ earlier last week.
News media organizations claim there is no law that prevents full public disclosure under the state of Florida’s open record law.
Attorney Deanna Shullman, who represents the AP and the other news organizations, said in the filing today that Bieber cannot legally compel a state agency to withhold a public record and that his attorneys have not identified any exemption that applies.
[Note: Bieber's lawyers have in fact identified Florida Constitution under Article 1: Sections 23 and 24 and Florida statutes 119.15 Section 6 (b) 2 for exemptions to full disclosure of public records.]
Additionally, Shulman said the law would permit only certain portions of the jail videos to be withheld or redacted if they were exempt or deemed confidential.
“Quite simply, the defendant’s private will does not trump Public Records Act mandates,” Shulman said in the motion.
The office of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has denied AP’s request for the videos pending the outcome of the hearing.
Unlike cases where defendants in criminal cases ask judges to limit release of evidence to the public on the grounds that their right to a fair trial would be jeopardized, Bieber’s lawyers are arguing on the basis of privacy — a notoriously grey battleground that tends to be more robustly upheld in Europe than in the US.
For their part, prosecutors say there is no general right of privacy in jail but a defendant can expect that the public would not see embarrassing information of them in custody.
On January 29, Bieber pleaded “not guilty” in writing via a lawyer to misdemeanor charges of DUI, resisting arrest without violence, and driving with an expired license.
A police report stated he and R&B singer Khalil Amir Sharieff were stopped and arrested as they prepped for an illegal street drag race in a residential Miami Beach street.
Two breath tests showed that Bieber’s blood-alcohol content registered 0.011 and 0.014, well below the.08 over 21 and.02 under 21 legal limit. However, later toxicology tests revealed the presence of marijuana and the antidepressant Xanax in his system at the time of his arrest.
A March 3 trial date has been scheduled.
News organizations signed up to the public records request and the motion for release of the videos are: The Orlando Sentinel, Scripps Media Inc. representing the Naples Daily News, St. Lucie News Tribune, Stuart News, TCPalm.com, Vero Beach Press Journal, WPTV-TV, WFTS-TV; and the SunSentinel Co.
The fight continues.