Seventeen-year-old pop star Justin Bieber was hit with a paternity suit yesterday by Mariah Yeater, a 20-year-old fan. Yeater claims she had sex with Bieber last October, and that the singer refused to wear a condom. As a result, Yeater alleges, the teen idol is now the biological father of her newborn son.
While all of this juicy news has ricocheted across the Internet today, much of the media have ignored a serious, related issue. By filing her paternity suit, Yeater has confessed to a crime: statutory rape.
The alleged encounter happened in California where the age of consent is 18, without any exceptions. At the time of the alleged encounter, Bieber would have been 16 and Yeater 19. In other words, if the allegations turn out to be true, Bieber would have been the victim of misdemeanor statutory rape. Under California law, it would not matter if, as alleged, he initiated the encounter.
The New York Post has noted that under normal circumstances, this would not normally draw the attention of prosecutors, both because of the limited age difference between the two and because underage males are oftentimes perceived as being left unscathed by sexual experiences with slightly older women. But the high profile of this case might change that. Steve Cron, a California defense lawyer, told the Post: “Under these circumstances, the DA’s office has to show they’re not treating women differently, not treating a celebrity differently, [and] they might have to do something.”
While there are many questions that remain to be answered, if it is determined that the allegations against Bieber are true, Yeater has opened herself up to prosecution.
If Yeater were found guilty of misdemeanor statutory rape, she would likely be punished with probation. But it adds yet another complicating legal issue to what promises to be one of the more high profile paternity suits in years.
Globe file photo: Justin Bieber in Singapore earlier this year.