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Accounts vary in Tommy Lee incident

By VALERIE KUKLENSKI UPI Entertainment Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 30 -- It was either a blatant intrusion by a brazen paparazzo photographer or an assault on a guy just doing his job by a maniacle rock star, depending on who you listen to. A Los Angeles sheriff's detective was trying to sort out the facts from the hyperbole Monday in the scuffle between Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and a cameraman as Lee and his wife, 'Baywatch' actress Pamela Lee, were leaving the Viper Room nightclub in the wee hours Sunday morning. Fortunately for detective Scott Petz, his job may be made easier by videotape of the incident shot by another cameraman. With a publicist speaking for the Lees and a colleague speaking for injured cameraman Henry P. Trappler, there were dramatically different accounts of what happened. Lee's spokeswoman, Marleah Leslie, said Tommy and Pamela 'were harassed by approximately 30-40 rowdy paparazzi who persisted to push cameras in their face, obstructing their ability to get in their car.' 'One photographer in particular sprayed Pamela and Tommy in the face with pepper spray after having been politely asked to movie aside,' the statement said. E.L. Woody, who works with Trappler at Papparazzi TV, a video firm that seeks out celebrities for candid footage, says that's not what happened at all, and his video shows it. He says when Lee and his wife came out of the club, there were about 40 people waiting outside but only three or four were photographers. Woody described Trappler as a very polite man -- 'the opposite of anything you hear about paparazzi' -- who was trying to tape the famous couple when Lee, who has the word 'mayhem' tatooed on his chest, tried to grab Trappler's camera, then picked up the 5-foot-5 photographer, turned him around, then flung him to the concrete.

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Petz, who viewed the videotape as part of his investigation, agreed with Woody's description of Lee's action. As for the pepper spray, Woody said he doesn't know who sprayed it, but he is certain from watching Pamela Lee as they drove away that she was not hit by it as she later claimed. Woody said Trappler remained hospitalized Monday with multiple fractures to his pelvis. Petz said he had not yet talked with Trappler about the incident but based on the preliminary report Tommy Lee probably will face a misdemeanor battery charge. 'It could escalate (to more serious charges) if it turns out there are fractured bones,' Petz said. He said he hopes to turn over his findings to the District Attorney's Office later this week. The incident has drawn attention again to the relationship between paparazzi and the celebrities they doggedly pursue. Generally the two parties agree they need each other and, at worst, they are friendly adversaries. But the Lee incident raises the question of where to draw the line between the stars' expected right to privacy and their sometimes physical response to paparazzi ambush tactics, such as last year when actor Alec Baldwin hit another videographer and was charged with battery. 'If you don't think that these people want to taunt you, then you're wrong,' Baldwin said earlier this year after his acquittal. But Woody said, 'This is typical, this is what we face every time.' He said authorities rarely take action against celebrities in such incidents because they don't want to alienate them, and because wealthy celebrities may produce purported witnesses to the incident that Woody calls 'liars for hire.'

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