Tuesday, August 17, 2010
by Robin Sax
Is there any relationship between the death of Mitrice Richardson (left) and Mel Gibson’s rage-a-holic issues? Both cases happen to be assigned to the Lost Hills Branch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department -- but that is not much of a connection (as hundreds of cases go through that department). However, the Mitrice Richardson case is impacting the Mel Gibson investigation.
Mitrice Richardson was the 24-year-old woman whose remains were recently found and confirmed. Mitrice was last seen leaving a Los Angeles County Sheriff's station in Malibu in the early morning hours of September 17, 2009 (after being arrested the evening before at the swanky Geoffreys of Malibu). She was arrested for allegedly skipping on her tab and showing signs of "strange and erratic behavior." The search for Mitrice was riddled with issues. Her family is angry; they believe that a young girl with apparent mental health concerns should not have been released in the dark desolate wilderness of Malibu. She should have been kept at the sheriff’s station until a relative could have picked her up; if she had been, she might still be with us today. The finding of Mitrice's body puts no closure on this case which has many more questions than answers.
There is a general feeling here in Los Angeles that something stinks in Lost Hills. While Sheriff Baca (right) insists there was no homicide, the suspicions abound: Why was Mitrice released alone in the middle of the night? Why did the sheriff’s officials deny the existence of a videotape for so many months? Are sheriff's deputies being investigated? Is this a racial issue (of disparate treatment for an African American woman)? What really happened here?
The Mitrice Richardson case, although prominently featured on the CNN Headline News's "Jane Velez-Mitchell" show, hasn't seen nearly as much national print or TV press as Mel Gibson’s most recent brush with the law. Sources close to the Mel Gibson investigation confirm my notion that “if this case was anyone else, that person would be arrested so fast your head would spin.”
Well, duh! Any Mel Jones or Smith accused of domestic violence with the heap of corroboration or evidence (as in this case) would have been arrested already. There would be a mound of paperwork on the DA’s desk requesting charges for domestic violence, criminal threats, assault with a deadly weapon, child endangerment, and a few other felony charges. A cop wouldn’t even think twice about this arrest. The minimal probable cause standard has been met and re-met over and over again here.
We haven’t seen too many changes in the justice system in the last 20 years. But one positive shift is that domestic violence is not treated lightly or brushed off in today's climate. In my experience, at least 85 percent of the time where there is felonious domestic violence conduct in a case, there is an arrest -- period. Given the high correlation of domestic batteries leading to domestic murders, no police station in a post-OJ era wants to risk blood on their hands. Most cops chose to follow the lead of the lobbyists and politicians by adopting the "no tolerance" rule for domestic violence. You hit, you injure, and you go to jail.
So if that’s the case, why hasn’t Mel been arrested yet? Part of the answer may be that Mel Gibson (left) is one of the most powerful actors around. But I have come to find out that the predominant reason is because of the Mitrice Richardson case.
What happened with Mitrice Richardson (and we only found out recently that she is dead) has brought on so much bad local press for the Sheriff’s Department that it is paralyzed. The recent Friday, August 13, Los Angeles Times editorial "Failing Mitrice Richardson: A woman's tragic end in Malibu Canyon raises questions about Sheriff's Department practices" comes down very hard on the sheriff's department. How can the department now afford to act in Mel’s case and risk more intense scrutiny at this time? As a matter of fact, my sources tell me the department is so paralyzed it has pretty much allowed Blair Berk (Mel’s lawyer) to dictate the course of the entire investigation.
So, it's clear (as I said): the Mitrice Richardson case is directly affecting the investigation -- and probably the prosecution -- of Mel Gibson. Although the Sheriff's Department says it plans to turn over Mel Gibson's domestic violence case to prosecutors "within the next two weeks" -- it remains to be seen. And hopefully, since no suspect has been identified in Mitrice's case, the effect that Mitrice Richardson has on the Sheriff's department won't spill over to the DA's office too.
It is interesting to note that we are talking about the same police department that arrested Mel Gibson for his DUI back in 2006 when he went on a racist, antisemitic, misogynistic rant for officers while resisting arrest. So how did Gibson get home that night? Reportedly, he got a ride home from the police.
So, if it had been Mel arrested that night in Geoffreys instead of Mitrice (and we can just imagine what range of "mental health" issues would have brought on Gibson's arrest), they surely wouldn't have released Mel into the dark night without knowing exactly how he was getting home safe.
The reality of this last fact is the crux of the whole issue: that is, when the eyes of the celebrity media monster are fixated on a case in the LA Sheriff's Department, the department is going to act differently, or not act at all. Are they hoping the monster will just go away? I am sure Mitrice's family is feeling the same as I do ... hoping that justice will be served by prosecuting Mel, by getting to the bottom of what happened to Mitrice (right, on People magazine cover in 2009), and holding the police and criminals accountable.Tweet