The sheriff's deputy who arrested Mel Gibson for drunken driving in 2006 will have his discrimination case heard by a jury, a judge ruled on January 12, according to the Associated Press. However, Superior Court Judge Barbara Scheper expressed doubts that Deputy James Mee's case can win.
"While I think it's thin, I think there are enough facts to create a question for the jury to decide," Scheper said, according to the wire service, during a hearing in which Los Angeles County attorneys tried to have the case dismissed.
Mee, who arrested Gibson in Malibu in 2006, will be allowed to argue to jurors that he suffered discrimination and had to work in a hostile environment with his colleagues after the incident. The trial is scheduled for February 14.
Mee, who is Jewish, claims his Christian superior officers ordered him to remove Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks from a report and then ostracized him and blocked his chances for a promotion.
According to a police report posted on TMZ at the time and quoted by international media outlets, Gibson allegedly said: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." He has not confirmed his specific remarks.
Gibson later apologized and pleaded no contest to the charge. He was sentenced to three years probation and underwent alcohol rehabilitation. Gibson's conviction was expunged in 2009 after he completed all the terms of his sentence.
"Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite," he said in a statement at the time. "I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith."
Los Angeles Sheriff's Department attorneys denied any wrongdoing and written in court filings that the deputy was insubordinate at times after Gibson's arrest and subjected to the same discipline as others.
Mee was also investigated as a potential source who leaked his initial report containing Gibson's anti-Semitic rant, but prosecutors found no evidence that he provided the details to TMZ after a long investigation. He is still a deputy but he no longer patrols for drunken drivers in Malibu.
Mee's attorney Yael Trock did not yet know whether Gibson, who is not named in the lawsuit, will be called as a witness.
"Mel Gibson is not the issue here," Trock said. "The issue is that the department mistreated Deputy Mee, who dared to arrest Mel Gibson and treated him like any other person."