The cameras were rolling, but actor and director Mel Gibson was nowhere to be seen at the Malibu courthouse Tuesday.
In a brief hearing held at the Oscar winner's request, a judge agreed to expunge Gibson's drunk-driving conviction. The initial arrest made headlines when the star was reported to have made anti-Semitic comments to a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.
"He does not appear to be on any sort of probation or facing any similar charges," Judge Lawrence J. Mira said as a videographer for a celebrity news website taped the proceeding. "So I will grant the petition and sign the order." Mira noted that the charge is "still valid for gun control purposes."
Like most first-time drunk-driving offenders, Gibson, 53, was eligible to have his conviction expunged after completing the terms of his probation. Those terms included attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, appearing in public service announcements and paying $1,300 in fines. Neither Gibson nor his attorney was required to appear.
The sheriff's deputy stopped Gibson in July 2006 on Pacific Coast Highway after the actor was spotted driving his Lexus sedan at more than 85 mph. A Breathalyzer test showed Gibson's blood-alcohol level to be 0.12%; the legal limit for driving is 0.08%. A Sheriff's Department spokesman initially described the arrest as having occurred "without incident."
But after the celebrity website TMZ.com obtained the arrest report detailing Gibson's profane outbursts, his alleged attempt to escape custody and repeated threats against the arresting deputy, critics charged that the actor had received special treatment from authorities.
In his initial report, Deputy James Mee described how Gibson "bolted" from custody and how he chased the actor back to Gibson's car and handcuffed him.
In addition, the report detailed repeated threats against Mee made by Gibson, who said he "owned Malibu" and would "get even" with the deputy.
The report also detailed Gibson's "barrage of anti-Semitic remarks," in which he said, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" before asking the deputy, who is Jewish: "Are you a Jew?"