Mel Gibson may be witness in discrimination trial

Friday, February 03, 2012
Mel Gibson

( AP Photo/Lee Celano, file) (AP Photo)

Attorneys for the deputy who arrested Mel Gibson on suspicion of drunken driving want to call the Oscar-winner as a witness during an upcoming trial to determine whether the law enforcement officer suffered discrimination because of the case.

The case will focus on what happened to Deputy James Mee after he arrested the actor-director in 2006, and whether he endured discrimination because he is Jewish. The trial could also focus heavily on Gibson's arrest, during which he made anti-Semitic comments that Mee claims his superiors forced him to remove from a report.

He claims he was also ostracized and his opportunities for promotion were blocked after Gibson's arrest.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca may also be called to testify, according to a witness list filed Thursday. Mee's attorneys are hoping to show that the agency moved to protect Gibson because the star had a close relationship with the department before his arrest.

County attorneys are asking a judge to block jurors from seeing a public service announcement that Gibson recorded for the agency prior to his arrest. Gibson appeared in a deputy's uniform for the spot, and Mee's attorneys claim it is important context for jurors to see.

Gibson's work as a spokesman for the department helps explain "the circumstances that serve as a backdrop to the harassment and hostile work environment that Deputy Mee suffered," the deputy's attorneys wrote in a court filed. "(Gibson) wasn't just another arrestee. He was the 'public face' of the department."

Neither Gibson or Baca have been deposed in advance of the trial, which is scheduled to begin on Feb. 14. Filings state Baca's testimony should last about an hour, while Gibson may spend about 90 minutes on the witness stand.

In all, 28 witnesses are listed in a pretrial filing, and not all of them may be called to testify.

"He'll do whatever is legally appropriate," Baca's spokesman Steve Whitmore said. "We look forward to telling the whole story."

An email to Gibson's spokesman Alan Nierob was not immediately returned.

A judge ruled last month that the case should go to trial if it cannot be settled, but noted that Mee's attorneys may have trouble proving their case.

"While I think it's thin, I think there are enough facts to create a question for the jury to decide," Scheper said during a January hearing. She noted that he remains a deputy, although he no longer patrols for drunken drivers in the coastal community of Malibu.

Attorneys for Los Angeles County have denied Mee faced discrimination or was retaliated against.

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