In 2011, a swoop-haired YouTube sensation from Stratford, Ont., graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, a time-honoured milestone in the career of any recording artist. In headline bold, the cherubic singer was identified as “Justin Bieber, Super Boy.”
Those were the heady days of Mr. Bieber’s ascent to international teen-idol status – followed by his collision with the perils of superstardom.
Some of his transformation from boy next door to bad boy has bordered on the comic, including the abandonment of a pet monkey at Munich airport and an infamous encounter with a janitor’s mop bucket.
But he faces more serious allegations now. On Wednesday night, the 19-year-old musician turned himself in at a Toronto police station and was charged with assault in connection with an attack on a local limousine driver.
According to Toronto police, in the early morning of Dec. 30, a limousine picked up a group of six at a downtown nightclub. During the drive to a hotel, there was an altercation between the driver and a passenger, with a man striking the driver on the back of the head several times.
The driver phoned police, but the man left before officers arrived.
Mr. Bieber had attended a hockey game at the Air Canada Centre the previous evening.
In a statement, Mr. Bieber’s lawyer, Howard L. Weitzman, said: “The Toronto Police Service requested that Justin Bieber appear in Toronto today to face an allegation of assault relating to an incident on December 29, 2013. We anticipate that this matter will be treated as a summary offense, the equivalent of a misdemeanor in the United States.
“Our position is that Mr. Bieber is innocent. As the matter is now before the court, it would be inappropriate to address the specifics of either the allegation or of our defense at this time.”
Mr. Bieber and an entourage arrived in three black SUVS. Surrounded by about five handlers and wearing a black baseball cap, he was ushered into the downtown police station by four police officers. A crush of about 150 people, mostly journalists, had awaited his arrival for over an hour. But many screaming fans and curious onlookers also showed up in the –11 C weather to catch sight of the performer.
“It’s his own life, you can’t judge him,” said Karolyn Nawrot, a Bieber fan of four years. When the pop star arrived, police officers and security had to push their way through the crowd. “He’s still a good person,” Ms. Nawrot said. “The media only looks at the negative things he does and never the positives.”
Of late, the negatives have far outweighed the positives. Eclectic transgressions from the boy bon vivant have been doled out almost regularly, as if a campaign of scandalous incidents was being waged purposely in a bid to acquire an older and more sustainable audience than the young, girlish fandom Mr. Bieber has traditionally enjoyed. On the new Confident video, he sports a fledgling mustache.
In July, 2013, U.S. border agents found marijuana on Mr. Beiber’s tour bus. In December, he bizarrely told a radio station he was retiring from the music business. In January, the star’s California home was searched after a complaint that eggs were thrown at a neighbour’s house. An unspecified amount of cocaine was discovered, which resulted in the arrest of a friend of the singer for alleged felony drug possession.
Last week, Mr. Bieber was arrested in Miami Beach, Fla., and charged with resisting arrest, driving while intoxicated (a preliminary toxicology report shows that Bieber tested positive for marijuana and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax) and using a Georgia driver’s licence that had expired more than six months earlier. Police said he was stopped in a pre-dawn drag-racing episode in a yellow Lamborghini.
Mr. Bieber made his $2,500 (U.S.) bail and was free to travel to Canada to face the new charges. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he is set to be arraigned in Florida on Feb. 14.
Mr. Bieber is scheduled to appear in court on the Toronto charge on March 10.