Crime Time: Should Justin Bieber's manager really be prosecuted for a mall riot?Fri Mar 26, 2010 @ 09:33AM PST
Our weekly criminal courts columnist wonders why pop star Justin Bieber's manager was blamed when too many screaming fans showed up at a mall appearance ...
I'm depressed. Dreams of orchestrating my own "Soapdish" moment were destroyed this week by teen pop sensation Justin Bieber.
Stay with me. "Soapdish" is a 1991 film with Sally Field and Whoopi Goldberg in which Sally plays a declining soap star. In perhaps the most famous scene from the movie, Whoopi and Sally orchestrate a moment of fan frenzy to boost Sally's fledgling actor ego. While riding a mall escalator, Whoopi pretends to be a fan, points at Sally, and yells, ''Look who it is! Aren't you on that show?!'' In a matter of seconds, Sally finds herself surrounded by fans who really, really like her.
And, I really, really liked this fantasy until the possibility of criminal consequences emerged in the world of entertainment news this week. Case in point: Consider Scott "Scooter" Braun, manager of 16-year-old Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, who surrendered to police in Williston Park, N.Y., this week for allegedly refusing to post a Twitter message warning fans that Bieber's November mall appearance had been canceled because of overcrowding. On Wednesday, Braun pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree reckless endangerment and one count of second-degree criminal nuisance. He faces up to one year in jail.
So, how did an alleged refusal to timely tweet about a twerp to tween tweeps get to this point? Bieber has sold more than 3.3 million copies of his debut album, "My World," performed at the White House and landed the gig as the opening (and ... um ... auto-tuned) artist on the newly revamped "We Are the World." While promoting his album, Bieber was scheduled to appear at Long Island's Rooseveld Field Mall. More than 3,000 screaming fans showed up, and 35 units from nearby police departments responded to manage the crowds. Authorities canceled the event and instructed Bieber not to enter the mall.
Nassau County district attorney Kathleen Rice says fans were in danger of being "trampled," and Braun contributed to their danger. According to the DA's office, police asked Braun to send out a Twitter message from Bieber's account telling fans not to show up, but Braun initially refused, even changing the account's password so that "he could control the event." Although Braun eventually posted the cancellation notice on Twitter, it was too late; Rice says he already had "endangered the very fans who came to see his client."
Of course, this is not the first time that police have intervened when fans have gotten overly excited at a pop culture event. In November 2008, "Twilight" superfans bombarded a San Francisco Hot Topic store to get a glimpse of then-newcomer Robert Pattinson. When the crowd approached the 3,000 mark, at least one woman woman was injured, and police shut down the event. This month, 160 Metallica fans (yes, you read that correctly) were arrested in Bogota, Columbia, after a 45-minute riot outside of the group's concert. And, of course, there's the infamous model stampede outside of a 2009 "America's Next Top Model casting session, when the NYPD arrested two women and a man on charges of inciting to riot and disorderly conduct.
In none of these cases, however, was an artist's manager or other representative prosecuted for a crime. Perhaps that's why Bieber was seen sporting a T-shirt this week that says "Free Scooter." He's right. Free Scott "Scooter" Braun and train local police departments and/or mall security to prepare for Bieber-mania properly, instead of blaming a music manager for failing to send a timely tweet to tweens.
Or maybe we simply need to free ourselves of our unbridled celebrity addiction. Yeah, right. Just free Scooter and give me back my "Soapdish" dream.