A brake on the paparazzi By Jeffrey Scott Shapiro October 15, 2005 UNDER A NEW California law, victims of assaults by paparazzi can ask for punitive damages and a court order stripping the photographer of any proceeds from pictures taken during the assault. For ordinary people, it's no doubt difficult to imagine that anyone would risk the life of another human being to get a picture or story, but I'm sorry to tell you, such rituals are common for tabloid journalists. I know because I used to be one. When I was 23 years old, I was enlisted as the lead investigator on the JonBenet Ramsey case for the Globe tabloid. My job was to dig up dirt to help my editors write about the alleged involvement of John Ramsey in the sexual molestation and murder of his daughter. Week after week, I sent my editors reports based on my conversations with law enforcement sources in Boulder, Colo., that indicated John Ramsey was not the lead suspect. Nonetheless, the Globe continued to push for stories in that direction. I quickly realized that by paying so-called sources and experts to accept attribution for fabricated quotes and headlines, the tabloid empire had the power to accuse anyone of anything, anytime. When sources ran dry, I remember people talked about "creating" a story by reporting false information (anonymously, of course) to the police. This way, they could misdirect the investigation in directions that suited their editorial needs. When they wanted to publish a story reporting that the police were investigating a particular lead, for instance, they phoned it in. And when the police showed up to investigate these leads, paparazzi often would be waiting in their cars to photograph them, shielded behind dark, tinted glass. In some instances, I remember discussions about different strategies on how to bribe members of law enforcement. The rest is here: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-shapiro15oct15,0,388945.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions JEFFREY SCOTT SHAPIRO is a freelance investigative reporter and a former reporter for the Globe tabloid. He can be reached at email@example.com.