If Justin Bieber has few friends at TMZ, it seems he has none at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Following the celebrity gossip site's scoop reporting of the 19-year-old's alleged egging of a neighbor's house in Calabasas, Calif. on Thursday (Jan. 9), the outlet is now doing what it does better than anyone: stepping on the gas.
A Saturday headline openly trills "Justin Bieber Detectives Gunning For Felony Prosecution In Egging Case," before revealing police in a just launched vandalism investigation - in which the singer is a named suspect - "are indignant" and want to "nail the Biebs" for the incident.
A similarly personalized, and distasteful culinary/death penalty association pops up at Britain's Mirror: "Cops want to fry Justin Bieber over 'egg attack' - will Baby singer be charged for vandalism?"
Meanwhile, at Uproxx and elsewhere rape references are offered, "I'm sure he'd be really popular in prison. Let's all keep our fingers crossed."
Given that this is the second day of an investigation and official determinations on culpability, the possibility of provocation, intent, and evidence gathering are still ongoing, this kind of reporting is base to say the least.
Moreover, joking about or hoping for a prison rape, especially in the instance of a teenager who could be facing a jail term, is breathtakingly irresponsible.
According to TMZ, while attending the neighbor's home on Thursday detectives told him they needed a damages estimate by Monday. At stake is a Sheriff's Department that appears to be making no secret about wanting to settle scores with the singer ahead of the case being handed over to the District Attorney's office [reportedly next week], and the type of charge Bieber could face.
The Canadian is looking at possible charges of misdemeanor vandalism and assault. But if damages are higher than $400, the charge becomes felony vandalism and could mean an endgame prison sentence of more than one year in a state or federal penitentiary.
The website claims the neighbor believes his damages could be in the thousands due to pricey, exterior Venetian plastering that was allegedly damaged along with other items.
However, the most disturbing aspect of TMZ's report is the sense of their insertion into the vandalism investigation and likely too-close relationship with the Sheriff's Department.
While the tension between Bieber and Calabasas residents is longstanding, TMZ played an overt and active role in narrative-shaping of previous investigations, supplementing this with inflammatory visual media and shabbily-obtained non-stories when the news well ran dry.
This was noticeable during the reckless driving investigation of Bieber after former-NFL star Keyshawn Johnson claimed he saw the singer speeding around Calabasas last May. In the end, security video footage and the rapper Tyler, The Creator's public admission that he was driving the said Ferrari at the time in question successfully aborted the case.
Likewise, presumptions of Bieber's guilt by outlets reporting the battery claim filed last March by one of his neighbor's (most likely the complainant in the new egging incident), were often based on exaggerations led from the front by TMZ.
Specifically, when the D.A. declined to press charges for battery last October, the website's final report claimed the accusing neighbor saved Bieber's saliva. In fact, the D.A.'s office refuted that and said, "no such evidence existed."
The reality of our pageclick-fueled paparazzi economy and sleepless news cycle, is that its inflationary tendencies are usually only seen in rueful hindsight. To be clear; this isn't a call to ignore the egg photos and F-bomb laden video of the neighbor and - allegedly - Bieber. It's a post-it reminder that this legal case isn't actually entertainment for us to mistreat as we please.
The statement,"Sheriff's detectives want to hold Bieber accountable... they feel he's made a mockery of the legal system by breaking the law numerous times...the problem has been there was never enough evidence to prosecute him. But there is now," should be seen for what it really is: A playing to the gallery, egging-on of an investigation that scarcely needs more fuel.