LOS ANGELES - Authorities have refused to release video and audio tapes of Mel Gibson's drunken driving arrest, saying the material is part of an "investigatory file" and exempt from the California Public Records Act.
TMZ, a celebrity news Web site, had asked Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca for tapes of the incident in which Gibson uttered obscenity-laced, anti-Semitic comments.
TMZ argued that the tapes should be seen and heard by the public to assess whether the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department gave Gibson preferential treatment.
"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. So they must remain sealed, Gross said.
Gross' letter listed basic facts about the arrest but made no mention of Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks at the deputy who pulled him over on Pacific Coast Highway.
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," Levin said.
Gibson was arrested July 28 after he was stopped shortly after 2:30 a.m. for traveling 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.
If the case is plea bargained, however, obtaining the tapes could become more difficult.
"But there are extenuating circumstances," said Levin. "This puts in context the sheriff's statements about what happened that night."
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 controversial statements, was also ordered modified and the comments placed in a supplemental report.