Lawsuit tied to Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant must go to trial, judge rules [Updated]
A judge refused Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who arrested Mel Gibson on suspicion of drunk driving in 2006 and subsequently alleged he was retaliated against for not removing the actor's anti-Semitic slurs from an initial arrest report, the deputy's attorney said.
Attorneys representing the county had filed the motion requesting dismissal. Deputy James Mee says that in the years since the incident he has been passed over for promotions and had his job performance unfairly scrutinized. Because the deputy is Jewish, his attorneys have said, he is unfairly suspected of leaking details of Gibson's tirade to the media.
"When considering the evidence, a jury could easily see the discrimination, retaliation and harassment James Mee suffered at the sheriff's department," said Mee's attorney Etan Z. Lorant. Yael Trock, also representing Mee, said she was pleased to get the chance to show a jury how the deputy's career was harmed because he reported Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks.
Sheriff's officials have vigorously denied the allegations of retaliation and ethnic discrimination.
"We look forward to telling the whole story," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
The trial is set for September, Trock said.
Mee, who is still employed by the department, said that as a deputy assigned to DUI duty in Malibu, he approached the 2006 arrest as routine. He included Gibson's slurs, he said, to illustrate how drunk the actor was.
"The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," Mee quoted Gibson as saying.
Mee, 56, said he was planning to write the arrest report on another day because it was already late in his shift but was told by a supervisor that department higher-ups were waiting. Gibson, Mee's attorneys said, was of special interest to sheriff's officials because he was a friend of Sheriff Lee Baca and had appeared in a public service announcement for a department-administered nonprofit.
[Corrected at 5:16 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Mee is 55.]
Sheriff's officials have denied Baca intervened on the actor's behalf.
When Mee documented Gibson's rant, a supervisor told him the material was "not acceptable" because the anti-Semitic comments were irrelevant to the DUI, Mee said.
Mee said he was asked to remove Gibson's comments from the initial report and to include them in a supplementary report that would not have been immediately available to the public.
"That makes it look like an afterthought," he said. "In front of a jury, I would look like an idiot."
He said he eventually followed a lieutenant's order to write separate reports. A memo from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office later confirmed that Mee was instructed to write a supplemental report to be placed in a locked safe along with a recording of Gibson's booking and a bottle of tequila found with Gibson.
The Sheriff's Department downplayed the incident until Mee's initial report was made public by TMZ.com. Mee was suspected of leaking details to the celebrity news site. Despite records showing calls between his home and TMZ founder Harvey Levin, no charges were filed against the deputy.
Since arresting Gibson, Mee alleged that he had been the target of internal investigations based on trumped-up allegations, causing stress and loss of potential earnings. His complaint details numerous instances in which he says he was overlooked for promotions and new positions despite being qualified. In one instance, Mee said, he was denied a position at the West Hollywood patrol station after interviewers told him they worried that he would be too harsh on high-profile individuals he stopped for violations.
-- Robert Faturechi
Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff deputy James Mee in July 2006. Mee arrested Mel Gibson on suspicion of drunk driving in 2006. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press