LOS ANGELES – Mel Gibson has come under harsh criticism over the course of the past week, given the release of multiple tapes where he can be heard embarking on an array of racist, sexist and derogatory rants, reportedly taped by his former girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.
But given that California upholds the two-party consent law, which deems it illegal to tape conversations without the other party’s permission, could Grigorieva (who appears to be the victim in this ever-evolving saga) also face some serious legal issues of her own?
“Presumptively, (taping the phone conversations in such a way) is considered illegal, although there are certain exceptions to the penal code. It is at the discretion of the judge to decide if what Oksana did was litigious and whether action should be taken against her, and the penalty for this is at the discretion of the judge,” Los Angeles-based trial lawyer, Mark Geragos, told Pop Tarts.
However, fellow high-profile Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who is well-known for taking on highly controversial cases often surrounding women’s rights, believes that the recordings will probably be admissible and able to be used as evidence in the couple’s bitter custody dispute.
“I believe that part or all of the recordings may fall within the exception of the California penal code, which does not prohibit the use of recordings which could assist in proving a felony crime involving violence against an individual,” Allred said.
The salacious, yet confidential phone conversations were placed under seal by the L.A Superior Court amid the couple’s custody dispute. But, the fact that they were broadcast to the world by entertainment website RadarOnline is set to raise even more red flags in the court of law. Last week Gibson’s legal representatives filed a motion to hold Grigorieva in contempt for violating the court order and leaking the controversial tapes. The source behind the disclosure of the recordings remains unknown to the public, and Grigorieva has denied that she played any part in it.
“The Judge would not be pleased if it was proven that the tapes were released by Grigorieva herself in violation of the court order,” explained Geragos. “Hypothetically if that was the case, she could be held for contempt and sanctioned for money or thrown in jail.”
And given Grigorieva’s particularly calm, unemotional demeanor in response to Gibson’s aggressive, incensed tirades, coupled with the fact she carefully spells out certain key allegations such as “You were hitting a woman with a child in her hands? What kind of a man is that? Breaking her teeth twice in the face,” some experts to assume that the conservations were intentionally taped to use as proof against Gibson in some capacity, legal or not.
“The conversations are very consistent with a ‘cool call’ which is a device used by law enforcement to try and get suspects to admit to the crimes they've committed when they are talking to the victim and the police are there recording it,” Ventura-based Criminal defense attorney Philip Dunn said. “I wouldn't speculate (that authorities were in on it) but maybe she had advice from someone who had been in law enforcement or a private investigator on how to do this.”
“What it seems she is attempting to do is to get admissions from him that could be used against him either for purposes of distributing this publicly or destroying of the future,” Dunn added. “And what's particularly interesting here is the manner in which it's been done, she knew it was potentially a crime, yet she did not report it to the police. It would appear from that that she has a motive other than having justice pursued. If someone is a victim of a crime and does what would typically be done to investigate that crime, but doesn't report it to the police, then what is the motive?”
On that note, the defense counsel for Gibson has also reportedly come forth in claiming that Grigorieva tried to extort the 54-year-old actor. To pursue this allegation, Gibson’s team will have to prove that his former flame specifically made a request for money or something of high monetary value in exchange for not hurting him or his reputation.
“There is no indication in the tapes that she tried to extort, but in order for extortion to be a valid legal issue Oksana would have had to have made a threat that involved financial gain,” Los Angeles-based extortion expert attorney, Stephen G. Rodriguez, said. “There has to be value in it – if she threatened just to go the authorities with the tapes, that isn’t extortion. Threatening to sell them? That’s another story.”
Furthermore, Allred said that the word “extortion” is one that seems to have become a “standard script line” for male celebrities who have been exposed against their wishes in ways that harm their public profile.
Nonetheless, we can probably rest assured that Gibson’s team will explore every avenue to ensure those tapes were not doctored in any form. According to Geragos, chances are they have probably already hired a forensic audio expert to investigate the authenticity of the recordings.
“In a way, they (the tapes) sound like two different tracks, it sounds like two different conversations,” Rodriguez added. “The prosecution (Grigorieva’s defense) will have to prove that the tapes were authentic and not manipulated.”