Gibson Charged With Drunken Driving

Mel Gibson speaks to the press Sept. 20, 2002, in Rome, to announce that he will start to make the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."
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Mel Gibson was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor drunken driving, having an elevated blood alcohol level and having an open container of liquor in his car.

The three counts were filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors five days after Gibson was pulled over on Malibu's Pacific Coast Highway for speeding and he made anti-Semitic comments to the arresting deputy.

The charges do not mention his self-described "belligerent behavior" toward the deputy or any allegation of speeding. Arraignment is set for Sept. 28 in Malibu Superior Court.

If convicted, Gibson faces up to six months in jail, the district attorney's office said.

The Sheriff's Department said Gibson was stopped at 2:36 a.m. Friday after being seen speeding at 87 mph in a 45-mph zone. Authorities said his blood-alcohol level tested at 0.12 percent. A California driver is legally intoxicated at 0.08 percent.

According to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the sheriff's report says Gibson told the arresting deputy: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and asked him, "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson has issued two public apologies since then, and his publicist, Alan Nierob, has said the actor/director/producer was in an ongoing program for alcohol abuse before the arrest and has entered another, on an outpatient basis.

The latest apology addressed the Jewish community directly.

"I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words," Gibson said in a statement issued by his publicist. "Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith."

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League - which fights for civil rights and against anti-Semitism - issued his own statement on Tuesday, accepting Gibson's apology. Foxman said he is glad the actor "finally owned up to the fact that he made anti-Semitic remarks, and his apology sounds sincere. We welcome his efforts to repair the damage he has caused, to reach out to the Jewish community, and to seek help."

"Once he completes his rehabilitation for alcohol abuse," Foxman continued, "we will be ready and willing to help him with his second rehabilitation to combat this disease of prejudice."

Foxman also said that other than releasing the statement, Gibson has not contacted him or, to his knowledge, the leaders of any other Jewish organization.

Will Gibson's apology help save his career as an actor, director and producer? No, says publicist Michael Levine. "I cannot see, having done this 25 years at a very high level, any plausible way that his career can be restored. I think that this incident was a career-ender," Levine told CBS News' The Early Show. "And what I mean by that is, simply, I can't see how the career that he had previous to this event can ever be restored."

Gibson, 50, has had a troubled relationship with Jewish organizations since his 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ," which some criticized for portraying Jews as responsible for the death of Jesus. Supporters say the movie merely followed the Gospel story.

Dr. David G. Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, sent a letter to Gibson Wednesday inviting the actor to "come and learn about the history of the Jewish people as he begins this process of understanding."

"At the doors of our museum are the biblical quotes 'Remember, Never Forget' and 'There is Hope for Your Future,'" Marwell said in the letter. "These quotes are part of a Judeo-Christian tradition that we share with Mr. Gibson, and I think that he can find meaning in them for himself."

Gibson's apologies weren't accepted by at least one big name in Hollywood: former producer Merv Adelson, who took out an ad in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times blasting movie studio heads for not strongly and publicly condemning Gibson.

"Let's make ourselves proud and NOT support this JERK in any way, just because he's a so called 'star,'" wrote Adelson, co-founder of Lorimar Productions, which produced such TV hits as "Eight is Enough" and "The Waltons."

The Sheriff's Department has denied allegations of a cover-up that stem from an initial account that described the arrest as occurring without incident and which made no mention of Gibson's remarks to the deputy.

An independent county office that investigates allegations of wrongdoing by the department announced after a preliminary review that the arrest was handled within policy.

But the head of the agency, Michael Gennaco, said Tuesday he wouldn't have described the arrest as being without incident, and he couldn't say whether the department tried to shield Gibson's remarks from the public when the original arrest report was ordered modified and the comments placed in a supplemental report.

In a related matter, sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said it was not a violation of department policy when a sergeant drove Gibson to a tow yard to retrieve his car after being cited and released on his own recognizance.

"It's within our policy to help people out and also to avoid a possible conflict," Whitmore said, describing the brief trip in a patrol car. "We didn't want Mr. Gibson to get into any kind of disturbance with the paparazzi."