LOS ANGELES — A US sheriff’s deputy who endured an anti-Semitic rant from Mel Gibson for arresting the star won the right to a trial Thursday, over his treatment by bosses after the notorious incident.
A judge ruled that James Mee could take his lawsuit to trial on the grounds of religious discrimination and hostile work environment, which he claims were behind repeated disciplinary action he has suffered since the 2006 arrest.
Gibson has struggled to resurrect his career ever since the incident, in which he launched a foul-mouthed anti-Jewish tirade at Mee after being stopped for drunk driving in Malibu, north of Los Angeles.
Mee, who is Jewish, filed the suit in September 2010, claiming that he was overlooked for six to seven other posts after complaining to his bosses that the Oscar-winning star received preferential treatment from deputies.
He also alleges that his bosses ordered him to remove parts of his report about Gibson’s arrest, “effectively participating in covering up the anti-Semitic posture of Mr Gibson,” said his lawyers.
Los Angeles Superior Court judge Barbara Scheper ruled that he could proceed to trial on religious and hostile work environment grounds, but dismissed his claim for retaliation, citing lack of evidence.
“We’re pleased we’re moving forward, although we’re disappointed about the retaliation ruling,” Mee’s lawyer Yael Trock said after the hearing into the lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles County.
The judge set a date of February 14 for the trial, although she voiced doubts about whether Mee was treated differently within the Sheriff’s Department because he is Jewish.
A stronger argument would be that Gibson was given preferential treatment because he is a celebrity, she said, adding: “People are offended all the time in the workplace.”
But she called Gibson’s remarks a “horrible anti-Semitic tirade” and said she hoped people of all faiths would be offended by them.
Gibson notably said that Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world during the July 2006 arrest, but later apologized for the “despicable” comments which he blamed on alcoholism.