Justin Bieber

Could Justin Bieber's paparazzo incident change his squeaky-clean image?

May 29, 2012 at 8:52 AM ET

Was Justin Bieber's encounter with a paparazzo over the weekend an impulsive act based on years of being followed 24/7 -- or was it a golden opportunity for him to change his image? On Tuesday, legal expert Star Jones and media analyst Steve Adubato joined TODAY's Ann Curry to explore the fallout from the much-discussed exchange.

"Take a look at Justin Bieber's image for a long time," said Adubato. "Right now what he is portraying is ... an impressive, sharp image. ... He's hanging around with some folks that I would argue from an image and branding point of view -- he's looking to shift. He's hanging around with Floyd Mayweather, he's getting boxing lessons from Mike Tyson, he's with 50 Cent, and that's all well and good, but he's clearly making a shift in terms of how he wants to present himself to the public."

That said, he added, while an incident like this could burnish Bieber's reputation, more of them like this could start tarnishing it. "He gets the benefit of the doubt now, but if he gets into other incidents that involve violence, he starts having problems," he said.

According to Reuters, the L.A. sheriff's deputies are investigating the incident as a misdemeanor battery complaint. But as Jones pointed out, the paparazzo may have charges to face of his own. 

"California has that so-called 'anti-paparazzi' law, which is really a violation of vehicular code," she said. "You can't block someone from movement, and the cops have been going after the paparazzi as it relates to that."

The incident occurred on Sunday in an outdoor shopping area northwest of Hollywood, said Reuters. The sheriff department's statement noted that the man said he was taking pictures of Bieber and his girlfriend Selena Gomez when the singer "physically battered" him. The man was treated on the scene by paramedics and taken to a local hospital, and was later released. 

The problem, said Jones, is that U.S. law hasn't caught up to the shifts in celebrity culture. "Inside the United Kingdom they have laws that protect you for when you're going about your private business," she said. "I think you're going to see more laws enacted in our country that does the same thing."

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