Deputy says he’s focus of leak inquiry
Six months after he arrested Mel Gibson on suspicion of drunk driving in Malibu, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy alleges he is being harassed for his action by officials who question whether he leaked a report detailing the actor’s anti-Semitic rant to the news media.
Deputy James Mee’s attorney said Wednesday that his client was abruptly transferred from patrolling Malibu to another assignment in Agoura Hills and unfairly singled out for scrutiny by his supervisors.
Attorney Richard Shinee also said sheriff’s officials subjected Mee to a three-hour interrogation and served a search warrant on his home in September, taking a computer and phone records.
“His life and career would be a lot different had he not made that arrest,” Shinee said.
The Sheriff’s Department has already come under criticism for initially telling reporters that Gibson had been arrested “without incident,” even though Mee’s arrest report states that the actor/director was belligerent, profane and unleashed a “barrage of anti-Semitic remarks.”
Mee’s report was leaked to TMZ.com, a celebrity news website.
Neal Tyler, the division chief who oversees the Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills station, where Gibson was booked, said he knew of no problems with Mee’s treatment and said he was not being singled out.
“I disagree with the assessment ... that personnel in the department or at the station have been relating to him or supervising him in an unfair manner,” Tyler said. He declined to discuss Mee’s specific complaints, citing confidentiality rules.
After Gibson’s arrest, the Sheriff’s Department launched two investigations. One looked into whether the actor received preferential treatment, the other tried to determine who leaked Mee’s report to TMZ.com.
Gibson in August pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or above.
Tyler said a preliminary investigation into the issue of special treatment found “no evidence that anyone improperly influenced the investigation or prosecution of Mel Gibson’s drunk driving arrest.”
Sheriff’s Department sources said the probe into the leak of the report -- which could be a violation of department rules -- is ongoing.
Shinee said that a few days after Gibson’s July 28 arrest, sheriff’s investigators asked Mee why he chose to detail Gibson’s inflammatory comments in his report.
He was also told to recount the precise sequence of events surrounding the writing and handling of the report and any discussions or contacts he had.
“Clearly, the focus of the investigation was the leak and not whether there were any communications between department brass concerning suppression of the report,” Shinee said. “My client has denied he gave the report to anyone.”
Later, according to the attorney, sheriff’s officials told Mee that they were temporarily transferring him from his drunk driving patrol in Malibu to a similar job at the Lost Hills station out of concern that paparazzi would try to bait him into creating an incident. Not long after, sheriff’s deputies arrived at Mee’s home and removed his computer and took phone records, Shinee said.
Mee declined to comment. But Shinee said the deputy also believes he is being unfairly treated by supervisors. In August, Shinee said his client was written up by a sergeant for failing to report to work despite the fact that another supervisor had changed his schedule. Earlier this month, Shinee said the sergeant called Mee in from a field assignment to ask why he didn’t check a box on a report.
Tyler declined to comment on these specific incidents.