— Pippa Middleton could be called as a witness in a scandal the British tabloid press are calling “Gungate.”
Middleton, 27, has been at the center of controversy since she was photographed over the weekend with a man brandishing what looked like a gun as they drove through the streets of Paris.
One of the men in the backseat of the car has been identified as fashion mogul Arthur de Soultrait, whose lavish birthday party Middleton had attended the night before.
If an investigation materializes, Middleton could be called as a witness. If she had been in on the idea, and was involved in planning the incident or threatening someone, she could face prosecution. Wielding a gun in public in France — whether it's real or not — carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
“You can’t just brandish a gun in broad daylight and point it at somebody," Elaine Sciolino, Paris correspondent and former Paris bureau chief for The New York Times, told TODAY Tuesday. "I don’t think you can ever over-react when there’s a gun being pointed at someone, whether it’s a fake gun or a real gun.”
A formal charge hasn’t been levied against the driver yet, since the French say no one has come forward with a formal complaint on the matter, including the paparazzo who took the famous photo. Christopher Dickey, Paris bureau chief for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer, “The French press is playing (the incident) on the entertainment pages if it’s playing it at all. They’re not taking it very seriously."
For many, however, the situation is especially poignant, as it was in Paris in 1997 that Princess Diana died in a car crash after her driver was pursued by photographers.
The palace has been quiet on the incident so far. Though they have not commented publicly, Middleton may face retribution behind closed doors. MSNBC's Martin Bashir told Lauer, “If your sister is married to the heir of the throne, it brings with it certain responsibilities."
While Bashir doesn't expect the royal family will speak on the matter, he does think Duchess Kate will have some choice words for her sister.
“I don’t think the palace will say a word but I think her sister will give her the mother of all tongue lashes,” said Bashir, who added that with the Queen’s upcoming Jubilee celebrations and the summer Olympics coming to London, this PR nightmare is "the last thing the royal family needs.”