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Witnesses say Bieber did not assault limo driver: lawyer

Karen Phillips, left, accompanied her daughter Natalie, 14, centre, and her friend Emily McEwan, 14, to Old City Hall courthouse in Toronto March 10 2014 where a hearing was held into pop star Justin Bieber's assault case. Bieber was not in court, much to the dismay of the fans who gathered and watched the very brief judicial proceeding. The two, accompanied by Natalie’s mom, made the trip from Port Perry by GO train in the hopes that Bieber might make a surprise appearance.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A lawyer for Justin Bieber is disputing the assault case against the pop star, saying "independent witnesses" say he didn't do anything wrong in a limousine in Toronto late last year.

After a brief court appearance that left a couple dozen loyal fans disappointed because Mr. Bieber did not attend, lawyer Brian Greenspan told reporters there is another side to the story.

"We have independent witnesses who indicate that he was not engaged in any wrongdoing," the prominent defence lawyer said as several teenaged girls crowded behind him.

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Mr. Greenspan, however, said Mr. Bieber has not yet decided how he will plead to the charge. The Crown is proceeding on a summary basis, which is less serious and similar to a misdemeanour in the U.S., he said.

"We will pursue our independent witnesses, we'll compare them to the witnesses that … will be provided to us in disclosure and decisions will be made," he said. "But no decision's been made as to what will be done in the future."

Mr. Bieber, who turned 20 earlier this month, is accused of assaulting limousine driver Abdul Mohar after leaving a Toronto nightclub with five other people on Dec. 30. (It is unclear whether the witnesses Mr. Greenspan referred to are the other passengers.)

Police allege Mr. Bieber struck Mr. Mohar "several times" on the back of the head. The driver phoned police, but police allege Mr. Bieber left before officers arrived. Mr. Bieber was charged with assault after turning himself in to Toronto Police a month later.

"I know you guys need a story but I need my safety, right?" said Mr. Mohar, reached at his home in Vaughan, Ont., north of Toronto. "There are thousands of his fans who are crazy. They can attack me."

Monday's court appearance lasted less than a minute and involved Crown attorney David Mitchell providing two discs of disclosure, one a surveillance video and the other a victim's statement, to Mr. Greenspan.

The case was held over until April 14. Mr. Bieber also will not be present in court on that date, Mr. Greenspan said.

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As Mr. Greenspan finished taking reporters' questions, a teenaged girl yelled: "Tell Justin I love him!" The grey-haired lawyer responded with a smile: "No, I don't think I will tell [him] that. If you don't mind, I won't communicate that."

Mr. Bieber's absence from Toronto's Old City Hall courthouse left his loyal fans – who had been hoping against hope for a glimpse of the star – disappointed but undaunted.

Emily McEwan, who took the train from Port Perry, about an hour northeast of Toronto, with her friend and her friend's mother, said she wanted to show Mr. Bieber that his fans still support him.

"If he did come and we didn't show up, that would be kind of sad," Emily, 14, said.

"Very sad," Natalie Phillips, also 14, agreed.

Natalie's mother, Karen Phillips, said she hoped the trip was a March Break learning opportunity for the teens, who wore Justin Bieber sweatshirts and hats. After the brief court appearance, they planned to grab lunch and go shopping at the Eaton Centre, which is beside the courthouse.

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"It was a good experience for the girls to actually go into court," she said, adding she's attended two Justin Bieber concerts with her daughter and once waited outside his hotel.

"She didn't want to not come and him be here, so I thought we'll try and see. … There was still that hope that maybe he would be [here]."

The assault charge is not the only one facing the pop star from Stratford, Ont. Mr. Bieber was charged with driving under the influence, resisting arrest and having an expired licence for what police called a drag racing incident in Miami Beach, Fla. earlier in January. He has pleaded not guilty.

Also in January, the singer'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.

Mr. Bieber is also facing a lawsuit by a photographer who says his bodyguards roughed him up on a sidewalk in Miami last summer.

With a report from Dakshana Bascaramurty

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