Sean Penn Sentenced for Paparazzo Attack. Was Justice Served?

May 14, 2010

Sean Penn has been sentenced to three years of probation, 300 hours of community service and 36 hours of anger management counseling after pleading no contest to vandalism charges stemming from an incident last October in which he allegedly kicked and punched a photographer.

Penn had been facing misdemeanor battery and vandalism charges, and faced up to 18 months in jail if convicted, according to an AP report. Penn's attorney explained that fighting the charges would just distract Penn, so he "decided to accept the terms and move on."

The incident involved paparazzo Jordan Dawes, who was staking out Penn with other photographers in LA last October 4. When Penn appeared, Dawes says he began shooting video of the actor from about 50 feet away. Penn then approached Dawes, and started "kicking my legs" and "Punched me in the arm and in my camera," Dawes told E! Online at the time. He's said since then that he had to have knee surgery as a result of Penn's attack.

Dawes filed a civil suit against the actor, which is still pending.

Another photographer at the scene caught part of the incident on video. Penn is seen approaching Dawes quickly, attempting to kick him (video grab shown here), and then chasing him across the street before retreating. Penn can be heard yelling, "Get out!" several times.

The incident lasted about 30 seconds, and is more suggestive of a snarling dog chasing another dog out of his territory than a full-blown assault.

What the video lacks, though, is any before or after context, and the photographer who shot it didn't manage to capture the alleged punch to Dawes' arm (he dropped his camera to retreat to the safety of his car instead). Nor did the video sound track capture Penn allegedly threatening to put Dawes "in a box" the next time he saw him.

But given all the ambiguity, and Penn's stiff sentence, we felt compelled to ask another paparazzo: Don't you just have to expect to take your lumps (or kicks, or even punches) now and again, given the provocative nature of paparazzi work? Or to put it more bluntly, is Dawes a real victim, or just a cry baby?

The photographer we spoke with agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity, and said he didn't know enough about the incident between Dawes and Penn to comment on that specifically.

But he did say, "Photographers know what to expect, especially with celebrities like Sean Penn. He's always challenged photographers." (Penn has attacked photographers physically in the past, but not for a number of years.)

"Some photographers instigate confrontations, because they're looking for easy money," our source told us. "I know photographers who do that. But most of the time, you [suck it up] unless you get seriously injured."

Posted by David Walker on May 14, 2010 at 3:23 PM

One Response to “Sean Penn Sentenced for Paparazzo Attack. Was Justice Served?”

  1. typo Says:

    I think it’s either “knee” surgery, or “new” surgery, but I’d bet it’s not “knew” surgery.
    Edit.