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Did Gibson Get a Break After Arrest?

Officials will see if a deputy's report, which described abusive behavior, was changed.

July 30, 2006|Andrew Blankstein, Stuart Pfeifer and Jeffrey L. Rabin | Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's civilian oversight office said Saturday that it will investigate whether authorities gave Mel Gibson preferential treatment when he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and tried to cover up alleged offensive comments and behavior by one of Hollywood's most powerful figures.

The probe was begun after a celebrity news website, TMZ.com, published portions of the arresting deputy's handwritten report, saying the star was abusive, shouted anti-Jewish slurs, attempted to escape from custody and boasted that he "owned Malibu." A source close to the investigation confirmed Saturday that the pages posted by the website were authentic.

On Friday, a Sheriff's Department spokesman told reporters that Gibson had been arrested that day in Malibu "without incident." But the website alleged that evening that supervisors at the Malibu-Lost Hills sheriff's station tried to downplay the actor's behavior by omitting his most offensive actions in an abridged version of the arresting deputy's report, which has yet to be made public.

"All that stuff about favorable treatment is something that needs to be looked at," said Mike Gennaco, who heads the Office of Independent Review, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct and monitors the department.

"I'd like to see if there was a legitimate law enforcement reason for asking that the report be altered," Gennaco said. He said his investigation will be wide-reaching, looking at Gibson's ties to the department. In the past, Gibson has actively participated in a charity created by Sheriff Lee Baca.

Baca on Saturday defended the way his department handled the case and said the actor's behavior after his arrest is not relevant to the criminal charges.

"There is no cover-up," he said. "Our job is not to [focus] on what he said. It's to establish his blood-alcohol level when he was driving and proceed with the case. Trying someone on rumor and innuendo is no way to run an investigation, at least one with integrity."

Gibson issued a statement Saturday apologizing for his "despicable" behavior.

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested," the statement reads, "and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said."

Gibson said he has battled alcoholism as an adult, adding, "I ... profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

Baca said he has not seen the official arrest report and would not comment on what it contained.

"People say stupid things when they are drunk, and they later regret it," Baca said. "You don't convict him on what he said. People aren't convicted for saying stupid things."

In the written pages posted on www.tmz.com, the arresting deputy -- identified as James Mee -- wrote that after cooperating at first, Gibson became "increasingly belligerent as he took stock of his predicament."

The deputy said he told Gibson "that if he remained cooperative, I would transport him without handcuffing."

Instead, he said, Gibson tried to flee back to his car. After he was subdued and handcuffed, the actor told the deputy: "You're going to regret you ever did this to me."

Gibson, the report continued, then said he "owned Malibu" and launched a "barrage of anti-Semitic remarks."

Those remarks included Gibson's statement that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," the report said. After that, Gibson allegedly asked the deputy: "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson has had a close relationship with the Sheriff's Department. He served in 2002 as a "celebrity representative" for the L.A. Sheriff's Department's Star Organization, a group that provides scholarships and aid for the children of slain sheriff's deputies.

Gibson donated $10,000 to the stepdaughter of a deputy shot and killed in the line of duty and filmed public service announcements for Baca's relief committee dressed in a sheriff's uniform.

"My heart goes out to the people ... the families of the men who are killed while actually doing their job," the actor said at the time. "They put their lives on the line every single day."

Gibson was pulled over about 2:30 a.m. Friday on Pacific Coast Highway after a deputy observed him driving his 2006 Lexus LS at more than 80 mph, nearly twice the posted speed limit.

A bottle of tequila was found in Gibson's car. The deputy administered breath and field sobriety tests, said Steve Whitmore, a Sheriff's Department spokesman.

Gibson's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.12%. The legal limit for driving is 0.08% in California. Gibson was taken to the sheriff's station, where he was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and released at 10 a.m. on $5,000 bail.

Department of Motor Vehicles records show that Gibson had no previous driving-related convictions or accidents in California.

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