Mel Gibson pleads no contest in DUI case
MALIBU, Calif. – Mel Gibson ended his legal hangover Thursday, pleading no contest to a single misdemeanor charge of drunken driving in a deal that put him on probation for three years, fined him and sent him to alcohol rehabilitation classes.
His lawyers arranged to move his scheduled court appearance up by over a month, allowing Gibson to avoid creating a media frenzy with his plea. But he still faces the fallout from the anti-Semitic tirade he unleashed on a sheriff’s deputy the night of his arrest.
Gibson did not have to appear in the misdemeanor case and he did not, allowing attorney Blair Berk to handle the plea before Malibu Superior Court Judge Lawrence Mira.
The abrupt advancement of the proceeding was announced to the news media by the district attorney’s office with no time for most reporters to reach the distant courthouse before the plea was over.
“Media requests (for photo access) received after proceedings already completed,” the case file noted.
Court documents showed that Gibson signed the plea agreement and waived his right to a jury trial on Monday but the paperwork was filed just before Thursday’s proceeding.
Gibson was stopped around 2:30 a.m. on July 28 while driving on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and made anti-Semitic remarks to the arresting deputy, plunging Gibson into a scandal that led him to later apologize for what he called “belligerent behavior” and “despicable” remarks.
Gibson pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor of driving while having a 0.08 percent or higher blood-alcohol level. A second misdemeanor count, driving under the influence of alcohol, and the infraction of driving with an open container of alcohol, were dismissed.
A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is equivalent to a guilty plea for determining sentencing.
“This was an appropriate outcome which addresses all the public safety concerns of drinking and driving,” Deputy District Attorney Gina Satriano said in a statement.
Authorities continued to refuse to release video and audio tapes of Gibson’s arrest despite the disposition of the case. Media organizations including The Associated Press have asked Sheriff Lee Baca for the tapes but have been denied on grounds they are part of an “investigatory file” and exempt from the California Public Records Act.
The celebrity news Web site TMZ has argued that the tapes should be heard and seen by the public to assess whether the Sheriff’s Department gave Gibson preferential treatment. The issue arose because a sheriff’s spokesman initially said the arrest occurred “without incident” and made no mention of the anti-Semitic remarks.
Court documents said Gibson has already voluntarily begun rehabilitation.
The documents show the judge placed Gibson on three years’ probation and ordered him to attend “self-help meetings” five times a week for 4 1/2 months and three meetings per week for another 7 1/2 months. Satriano said these would be Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, according to Jane Robison, a district attorney’s spokeswoman.
In addition, Gibson was ordered to enroll in and complete a “three-month, licensed first-offender alcohol and other drug education and counseling program.”
The judge also levied fines and fees totaling $1,608. Gibson’s driver license was restricted by the state Department of Motor Vehicles for 90 days, the district attorney’s office said. Robison did not know the terms of the restriction.
Gibson volunteered to make a public-service announcement about the hazards of drinking and driving, but the judge did not make that a condition of his sentencing.
“The court acknowledges that defendant has volunteered to make a public service announcement. This will not be a term of probation, however,” the court documents stated.
Gibson was ordered to appear Jan. 17 in court for a progress report.
Gibson’s spokesman, Alan Nierob, would not elaborate about the plea arrangement or offer any hints about when to expect Gibson’s public-service announcement.
The case file also showed that the original judge assigned to hear the case, Terry Adamson, recused herself because Gibson is one of her neighbors.
No contest, no career?
Mel Gibson pleads no contest in DUI case