Fired sheriff’s deputy who arrested Mel Gibson gets job back


A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who arrested actor Mel Gibson for drunk driving should never have been fired and must be given his job back, the county’s Civil Service Commission ruled Wednesday.

The commission agreed with a hearing officer who found the Sheriff’s Department wrongly terminated Deputy James Mee in connection with a 2011 incident in which a drunk driver the deputy had tried to stop crashed into a Santa Clarita gas station. The commission ordered that Mee not face discipline, Luz Delgado, a commission spokesman, said Wednesday.

Mee’s lawyers argued that sheriff’s managers falsely blamed Mee for leaking details of Gibson’s 2006 arrest and the actor’s anti-Semitic tirade to celebrity news site Mee, his attorneys alleged, was repeatedly subjected to harassment and unfair discipline in the years that followed, culminating in his firing over the 2011 crash.


“It has been a long three-year fight,” said Richard A. Shinee, Mee’s attorney. “This is 100% just because of that day he arrested Mel Gibson for drunk driving.”

Shinee said the department fired his client after the county paid him $50,000 to settle a lawsuit Mee brought over his treatment following Gibson’s arrest.

Shinee said the commission’s decision means Mee will receive back pay and benefits from the day of his firing in 2012.

The commission’s decision comes after the panel initially decided to overrule the hearing officer’s recommendation and suspend Mee for 30 days. On Wednesday, the commission reversed its decision and agreed with the hearing officer.

The Sheriff’s Department insisted during Mee’s appeal that the deputy’s termination had nothing to do with Gibson’s arrest.

The department accused Mee of violating the agency’s rules on pursuits during the June 17, 2011, traffic incident in Santa Clarita. Mee had been following the suspected drunk driver’s Nissan sports car when the vehicle slammed into the Chevron station, seriously injuring the driver and passenger.


The agency accused Mee of failing to warn dispatchers and other deputies about how serious the fiery crash was and then lying in his report and to investigators by saying that he had not been in pursuit of the car.

The county hearing officer noted that the only independent witness, a passenger in the Nissan, testified that she saw that the red lights of Mee’s patrol vehicle were on when he tried to pull the sports car over, and then that they were off as the car she was inside fled at a high speed.

The hearing officer concluded that Mee had not been in a pursuit of the Nissan, noting that the fleeing car reached speeds as high as 147 mph while the deputy’s cruiser was traveling no more than 88 mph.

Mee testified during the hearing that he had not been in a pursuit but had followed the car out of concern that the driver would head for the Antelope Valley Freeway nearby and crash.

Mee testified that he had few disciplinary problems before his arrest of Gibson. A sheriff’s spokesman initially described the actor’s arrest as “without incident,” but Mee’s report alleged that Gibson verbally abused the deputy, threatened that he would “get even” and attempted to escape custody.

Mee said it was during his trip back to the sheriff’s Lost Hills station with Gibson in the back of his patrol car that the actor told him that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” and then asked, “Are you a Jew?” Mee is Jewish.


News of Gibson’s behavior sparked criticism that the department had provided special treatment to the actor, who had a close relationship with the agency. Mee was the subject of a sheriff’s criminal investigation into who leaked a copy of his arrest report, but was not charged.

Sheriffs officials are still deciding whether to take court action to keep Mee from returning.

“We are assessing the commission’s decision to determine whether further legal action in superior court might be appropriate,” said Nicole Nishida, a department spokeswoman.

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