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Schwarzenegger Recounts Fears in Paparazzi Case

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a Santa Monica courtroom Friday that thoughts of a kidnapping attempt went through his mind in May as he and his wife, NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver, drove their son to preschool pursued by two professional celebrity photographers.

In dramatic testimony, the star of such films as “The Terminator” and “True Lies” said at one point his wife’s Mercedes-Benz was pinned in by the photographers’ sports utility vehicles. He later described the “mass of confusion” that ensued outside the preschool as Shriver, pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, angrily confronted the paparazzi.

“I was just trying to tell my wife to calm down because at that point she was verbally excited and started screaming,” Schwarzenegger recalled.

The actor, who only a week before the pursuit had checked out of a hospital after open-heart surgery, said “my heart was pounding like crazy” because of the unnerving incident and added that his doctor had warned him not to exert himself. “I could have died,” he said.

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Schwarzenegger was the lead-off witness in a case that highlights an ongoing war between the world’s top stars and the paparazzi who feed the entertainment media’s insatiable appetite for celebrity images and scandal.

Giles Harrison, 29, and Andrew O’Brien, 31, face misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and reckless driving, while O’Brien also has been charged with misdemeanor battery. If convicted, they could face six months in jail.

Defense attorneys contend that the photographers were merely doing their jobs.

At the time of the May 1 pursuit, Harrison and O’Brien were working for Splash, a photo and news agency based in Santa Monica that brokers showbiz gossip and paparazzi shots of Hollywood stars. O’Brien has since left the agency.

Under direct examination by Santa Monica Deputy City Atty. David Armstrong, the actor testified that after pulling onto Sunset Boulevard, a black sport utility vehicle drew up beside them and the driver started taking video footage. As they drove further, Schwarzenegger said, they were wedged in by the black vehicle on one side and a gray sport utility vehicle on the other.

“I felt the impact of the car and my wife started yelling, ‘He hit us! He hit us! My God, he’s crazy!’ ” Schwarzenegger said. “She said, ‘We are jammed in here. What do I do?’ and I said, ‘Calm down . . . just try to get out of the problem.’ ”

At the Montana Avenue school, the pursuing photographer got out and leaned on the hood of the Mercedes as Shriver confronted them.

“There was a screaming match, there was a shoving match,” the actor recalled.

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“I tried to get out of the car and couldn’t,” he said, because his exit was blocked temporarily by the video cameraman, Schwarzenegger said.

Then they couldn’t find their son, Patrick, and grew frantic until someone told them that a parent had taken him into the school, Schwarzenegger said.

Lindner and attorney Marsha Mansell, who represents Harrison, contend that their clients did nothing illegal.


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