Paparazzo Fails to Come to Court

Times Staff Writer

Authorities are searching for a paparazzo who failed to appear in court to face misdemeanor charges stemming from his efforts to photograph actress Reese Witherspoon at a family outing at a Disney theme park, prosecutors said.

Arrest warrants were issued for Todd K. Wallace, 44, after he missed a Dec. 19 bail hearing on child endangerment and battery counts brought in the Witherspoon case and a Dec. 27 arraignment on a separate felony petty theft charge, prosecutors said.

"We have no idea where he is right now," said Patrick Ahle, an Anaheim prosecutor handling the Witherspoon case. "He is in the wind.

"He has both U.S. and British Honduras passports. Right now, a lot of people are looking for him," Ahle said.

Wallace, 44, is one of several paparazzi accused over the past year of endangering stars to get photographs for tabloid publications.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill setting triple damages for paparazzi who assault celebrities in the course of trying to photograph them, and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office has opened a conspiracy investigation into aggressive photographers and the agencies that buy or broker their photographs.

Wallace was arrested in 2004 after allegedly threatening to assault an assistant manager at a Robertson Boulevard boutique, court records show. He was charged with disturbing the peace, but the Los Angeles city attorney's office later dismissed the case.

He was arrested again last September after allegedly pushing a friend of Witherspoon's and striking the friend's 5-year-old daughter with his camera during the actress' visit to Disney's California Adventure park. He is also accused of roughing up two park employees who tried to intervene.

Witherspoon, in an interview shortly after the incident, said she had to shield her son to protect him from the photographer.

"He became so aggressive. He began pushing and shoved our tour guide," said Witherspoon, who described the incident as "an awful experience."

In an interview with The Times in October, Wallace defended his conduct and said authorities were just out to get paparazzi.

"The governor on down, the order is do whatever it takes to get us," he said. Wallace also said he never touched anyone, but asserted that Disney park employees had pushed him.

In October, an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered Wallace to stay at least 300 yards from Witherspoon. Wallace at the time said he lived within 500 yards of the actress' Westside home. Ahle said it was unclear whether that was true.

After Wallace was arrested in December on suspicion of theft at a Fry's Electronics store in Woodland Hills, prosecutors in the Witherspoon case sought a bail hearing for the photographer, who was free while awaiting trial.

Wallace missed that hearing and then his arraignment on the theft charge.

Wallace's last known public appearance was Dec. 6 on MSNBC's Rita Cosby Live & Direct program, where he defended celebrity photographers after a paparazzo was accused of violating actress Jennifer Aniston's privacy by shooting photos of her sunbathing topless. Aniston is suing photographer Peter Brandt over the photos.

As recently as last fall, Wallace worked as a paparazzo in Mexico, where he tracked Aniston to a luxury resort, according to several sources.

Wallace has used a dozen aliases and spent four years in prison on a 1992 second-degree burglary and petty theft conviction for breaking into a supermarket, according to court records. Wallace told The Times that incident was in the past.

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