Mel Gibson got star treatment from deputies

first_imgHollywood heiress Paris Hilton might have gotten a Coke and a smile from Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies during her stint in jail last summer, but the department went even further for errant actor Mel Gibson. In a review released Thursday into whether movie stars who run afoul of the law get preferential treatment, an investigator found that three deputies involved in the drunk-driving arrest of Gibson violated policy – including driving Gibson to a tow yard to pick up his car. Deputies violated policy by hustling him through the release process and not obtaining his palm print and the required signatures before release, said Office of Independent Review Chief Attorney Michael Gennaco. And after his release, a sergeant gave him a lift to get his car. Baca denied that the report was sanitized or that Gibson was treated differently than other suspects. And he defended the early release of Hilton, citing overcrowded jails and an undisclosed health condition. Gennaco, whose office oversees the Sheriff’s Department, said that during his review, evidence did not support allegations that Hilton was allowed to use a cell phone in jail or received other perks. Still, he said, an investigation is continuing into whether a sheriff’s employee inappropriately gave her a Coke and food and took a picture of her in her cell. In the Gibson case, however, Gennaco said his review found policy violations by three deputies who have since been disciplined by the department. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Thursday that the department is drafting protocols on how to handle celebrity arrests and the type of information that will be released to the public – especially from the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff’s station. “I don’t believe we do treat them specially,” Whitmore said. “I think we treat them differently, as we treat any inmate with special needs. “But our deputies are aware now that the whole world is watching, so let’s make sure we address the special needs of inmates based on the content of those needs and not based on friendships, not based on influence and not based on any other item other than those special needs.” Softer on Gibson The shift comes as Baca has long been described as star-struck and accused of giving preferential treatment to celebrities. Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said he was surprised the review found that the department went softer on Gibson. “It seems like it took awhile, but it’s good that they did find some problems and the Sheriff’s Department didn’t just sweep it under the rug,” Stern said. “When you step back and think about it, an ordinary citizen would not have gotten a ride to a tow yard. It’s pretty obvious he got preferential treatment, but for them to say so is laudable, and they actually disciplined people.” Gibson’s arrest in summer 2006 and Hilton’s incarceration this summer sparked renewed complaints about perceived unequal treatment and celebrity justice by the Sheriff’s Department. In Gibson’s case, the furor erupted after allegations were made that the department sought to suppress the allegedly inflammatory statements Gibson made, Gennaco wrote in his report. A sheriff’s spokesman had originally told the media the arrest was made “without incident.” Afterward, the department launched a criminal investigation to determine who leaked the police report to the media. That investigation is still ongoing. Internal inquiry An internal investigation by the department found that when the report was first prepared it contained a description of inflammatory statements Gibson allegedly made during the arrest. The initial response by lower-level supervisors was to order that those comments be stricken from the report, Gennaco wrote. The captain agreed, but directed his subordinates to instead prepare a supplemental report. The captain’s intent was to preserve all the relevant information about the remarks, but to present the case to the District Attorney’s Office “in a way that would limit the media’s initial access,” Gennaco wrote. “In spite of speculation that the sheriff or other top department executives directed this action on behalf of Mr. Gibson, the unit commander indicated that the decision to segregate the remarks was solely his,” Gennaco wrote. “The subsequent investigation revealed no evidence that this decision, or any other decision about the treatment of Mr. Gibson, was suggested or influenced by anyone higher in the department hierarchy.” While the decision on how to “package the information and describe the arrest” did not violate department policies, Gennaco said it points out the need to create a thoughtful and systemic approach on handling similar scenarios in the future. In the Hilton case, allegations of preferential treatment arose after Baca released her to home detention shortly after her incarceration. There also were other allegations that while in jail she received new uniforms, special mail deliveries, improper phone access, a freshly prepared and steam-cleaned cell, and undue consideration from supervisors. “The outrage over `celebrity justice’ that attended her initial release was understandable and even predictable,” Gennaco wrote. “However, it also largely overlooked the fact that Ms. Hilton had already served far more time than other individuals convicted of the same offense in Los Angeles County.” As for her treatment in jail, Gennaco wrote, it was determined that when Hilton walked past other inmates, they were ordered to face the wall. “A critic could certainly portray this as an extreme over-indulgence of one person’s sensibilities at the expense of the many,” Gennaco wrote. “However, it is a sound security procedure to require inmates to turn away whenever someone classified as being at a heightened risk of attack by inmates is moving through the jail, as it gives escorting deputies more time to react if another inmate attempts to initiate an assault. “Prior to Ms. Hilton’s arrival in jail, there were several stories of inmates bragging that they would try to attack her. Therefore, this precaution appears to have been justified and prudent.” [email protected] 213-974-8985 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champ“It’s very rare to have an arrestee being driven to a tow yard so they can pick up their car,” Gennaco wrote in the report. “And in Malibu, the tow yard was 11 and a half miles away.” Hilton controversy The report culminates months of controversy ignited in June when the Sheriff’s Department released Hilton from jail after just three days. She originally was ordered to spend 45 days behind bars for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless-driving case. Under state sentencing guidelines for awarding “good time” for days served, she was expected to serve 23 days. The department and Sheriff Lee Baca also came under widespread criticism when reports surfaced that Gibson went on an anti-Semitic tirade during a weekend arrest on suspicion of drunk driving and that Baca ordered details of the outburst eliminated from a deputy’s report. last_img