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L.A. County deputy won't face charges in leak of Mel Gibson's arrest report

Investigators could not identify who made calls from Deputy James Mee's home to, which published information about an anti-Semitic tirade by the actor during a 2006 drunk-driving bust.

October 08, 2009|Jack Leonard and Richard Winton

A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy suspected of leaking details about Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade during a 2006 drunk-driving arrest will not face criminal charges, despite records showing that two calls were made from his home on the day of the arrest to a celebrity news website.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office concluded that investigators could not identify who made the brief calls from Deputy James Mee's home to the founder of or who leaked portions of his report about Gibson's arrest to the website.

Mee, reached at home, said he was relieved by the district attorney's decision and insisted he had done nothing wrong. He declined to comment further.

As part of the probe, sheriff's investigators obtained a search warrant for the cellphone records of TMZ founder Harvey Levin to find out whom he spoke with on the day of the arrest, according to a district attorney's memo about the case.

A TMZ publicist said Levin was unavailable for comment.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said deputies use any legal means to investigate crimes. He said that a detective consulted with a prosecutor about the search warrant and that it was approved by a judge.

But Thomas Newton, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Assn, said that the warrant never should have been approved. California law, he said, bars judges from issuing search warrants for unpublished information gathered by reporters.

"I would interpret these phone records as unpublished information that would reveal confidential sources," Newton said. "Reporters aren't the arm of law enforcement."

Sheriff's officials played down the July 28, 2006, arrest of Gibson. But Mee's initial arrest report, first made public by TMZ, detailed profane outbursts by the actor, an attempt to escape custody and repeated threats against the arresting deputy.

The report also included anti-Semitic remarks the deputy said Gibson made. "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," the actor was quoted as saying before asking the deputy, who is Jewish: "Are you a Jew?"

The news sparked outrage at the actor's behavior as well as fierce criticism of the Sheriff's Department, which was accused of giving Gibson special treatment. The department launched a probe into who leaked Mee's report.

The district attorney's office memo, dated July 21, 2009, explains why prosecutors declined to file charges against Mee and offers new details about how sheriff's officials tried to prevent details about Gibson's inflammatory remarks from becoming public.

The memo said a captain ordered Mee to rewrite his initial report to remove the actor's anti-Semitic statements. Capt. Thomas Martin ordered Mee to write a supplemental report that would include the statements and be placed in a locked safe along with a video of Gibson's booking and a bottle of tequila taken from the actor, the memo said.

"This procedure would prevent the press from getting a copy of the report," the memo said. Prosecutors noted, however, that the supplemental report was never placed in a safe.

Gibson was arrested shortly after 2 a.m. on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

Phone records, the memo said, show that the calls from Mee's home were made to Levin shortly after TMZ posted an initial story about the arrest at 7 p.m. that day. One call lasted less than three minutes, the other under a minute. TMZ posted the first details from the arrest report at 9:15 p.m.

It is unclear whether Mee was home when the two calls were made. Time records show that Mee signed into the Lost Hills sheriff's station at 8 p.m., but the time was written over and changed to 6 p.m., according to the memo.

Bank records showed no unusual payments to Mee, his wife or daughter, the memo said. But the phone records showed eight more calls from Levin to Mee's home in the two days after the arrest, including a 10-minute call the next day and a 25-minute call the day after.

Levin told a sheriff's investigator that he did not pay anyone for the information and said he would not reveal the source.

The memo said that investigators found no evidence that anyone used Mee's home computers or fax to electronically share the initial arrest report.

Mee was one of three sheriff's officials who had access to the report that was leaked, the memo said. But the memo does not give any indication that the two other officials, a sergeant and a lieutenant at the Lost Hills station, were similarly investigated.

Mee's attorney, Richard Shinee, accused sheriff's supervisors of harassing the deputy and unfairly reassigning him in the wake of the arrest.

"I think Mel Gibson got off easy. The only person suffering in this case is my client," Shinee said.

Earlier this week, Gibson's drunk-driving conviction was expunged after he completed the terms of his probation.


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