Will the LAPD get help from Mel Gibson?
In their investigation of whether a picture of a bruised and battered Rihanna was part of an LAPD case file before appearing on the celebrity website TMZ.com, the Los Angeles Police Department might get some help from an unlikely ally: Mel Gibson.
Gibson, as you may recall, had details of an arrest report involving his 2006 drunk driving arrest posted on TMZ.com, replete with embarrassing details about an anti-Semitic tirade he directed at a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.
That incident -- as well as fears about unauthorized disclosures of details in celebrity cases -- led to a new state law this year that makes it a misdemeanor for peace officers or law enforcement employees to profit by leaking confidential reports or images. Those who violate the law face a $1,000 fine.
In pushing for the legislation, now dubbed "Mel's Law," Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) argued for a crackdown on for-profit leaks because information obtained during criminal investigations could compromise cases.
The LAPD said the release of a photograph purportedly related to an alleged domestic violence incident involving entertainer Chris Brown and an unnamed woman "has the appearance of one taken" as part of evidence collected in the case, though it has yet to be determined if the picture is from the case file or simply an image captured by someone not involved in the formal police investigation.
Even so, police officials noted they had launched an immediate investigation and filed a personnel complaint.
Two years ago, the LAPD found that one of its officers shot video that appeared on TMZ.com showing the rapper The Game bragging with a wad of money inside his jail cell.
The officer told investigators he gave the video, which was shot with a cellphone camera, to TMZ.com because he thought it would be fun, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. Investigators never found any evidence that the officer was paid for the video clip.
Harvey Levin, managing editor of TMZ.com, has said he does not comment on where his site gets its material.
-- Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Mel Gibson's mug shot taken after his arrest for drunk driving July 28, 2006. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department via Getty Images