By Linda Deutsch
Audio and video tapes of Mel Gibson's drunken driving arrest are exempt from the California Public Records Act and won't be released, authorities said, despite requests from a celebrity news Web site.
The Web site, TMZ, had asked Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca for tapes of the incident in which Gibson uttered obscenity-laced, anti-Semitic comments. TMZ argued the tapes should be seen and heard by the public to assess whether Gibson received preferential treatment from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"The records you have requested are records of the investigation and part of the investigatory file in this matter," replied Gary P. Gross, principal deputy for the county counsel's office. That means they must remain sealed, Gross said.
Gibson was arrested early July 28 after he was stopped for driving 87 mph in a 45-mph zone. He was released on his own recognizance later that day.
The 50-year-old actor-director, charged with misdemeanor drunken driving and having an open container of alcohol in his car, is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 28.
Questions have been raised about the fact that a Sheriff's Department spokesman initially said Gibson had been arrested "without incident" and made no mention of what Gibson himself latter called his "belligerent" and "despicable" behavior.
The arresting deputy's initial written report, which contained Gibson's statements, was also ordered modified and the comments placed in a supplemental report.
No decision has been made on whether to pursue further legal action, the Web site's attorney, Alonzo Wickers IV, said Tuesday.
Harvey Levin, who runs TMZ, said he would wait to see "how the case plays out."
"It could go to trial, and if it does, the tapes would become evidence," he said.
Meanwhile, California's Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Tom McClintock, said he no longer will use a fundraising letter sent on his behalf by Gibson.
McClintock decided to pull the letter after the incident, his campaign spokesman, Stan Devereaux, said Tuesday.
"Tom saw the news and the situation as it was unfolding with Mel Gibson and made a conscious decision to direct people not to use the letter any further. He was disillusioned by the situation with Mr. Gibson," Devereaux said.
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