LOS ANGELES – A civil jury will likely not hear directly from Mel Gibson about the night of his drunken driving arrest because his testimony doesn't appear relevant to a deputy's claim that he was discriminated against because of the traffic stop, a judge said Tuesday.
In a series of tentative rulings, Superior Court Judge Barbara Scheper said she will likely block attorneys for Deputy James Mee from showing the jury a video of Gibson being booked into jail and a 30-second TV ad he made supporting the Sheriff's Department three years before his arrest.
Mee, who is Jewish, claims he suffered religious discrimination by superiors after arresting Gibson in 2006, and that he was ordered to remove the actor-director's anti-Semitic rants from a report.
He claims he was passed over for promotions and suffered other reprisals because of the case and that he was personally offended by Gibson's remarks.
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," his attorneys wrote in a court filing.
Gibson "wasn't just another arrestee. He was the 'public face' of the department," the documents state.
Scheper also says she won't allow Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to testify during the case unless there is some evidence he ordered actions against Mee.
Attorneys for Mee had listed Gibson and Baca as potential witnesses last week, but Scheper said neither man's testimony appeared to be relevant.
Scheper said she will make final rulings in the case on Feb. 14, with jury selection expected later next week. Unless she alters course, jurors will hear little about the events during and immediately after Gibson's arrest.
"In my view, it's what happened after this gentleman was arrested" that is crucial to the case, Scheper said.
The judge said prospective jurors will undoubtedly have heard of Gibson's arrest, but the way Mee has presented his case renders Gibson and Baca's testimony unnecessary.
Gibson's reputation was damaged for years after details of the arrest and his anti-Semitic and sexist rant was leaked to celebrity website TMZ.
The actor apologized for his conduct, and his conviction was expunged in 2009 after he completed all the terms of his sentence.
Scheper has said she expects Mee will have difficulty proving his case, but that jurors should ultimately decide whether he was passed over for promotions and targeted for reprisals because he is Jewish.
Mee remains a deputy, although he no longer patrols for drunken drivers in the coastal community of Malibu where Gibson was arrested.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP