The Mel Gibson Tapes: Admissible in Court?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 14, 2010 7:12 AM

In case the public doubted Mel Gibson's capacity for ranting and raging, it appears that doubts will now be laid to rest. Entertainment websites and hard news sites as well are carrying audio excerpts from what all report to be another nasty, vicious Mel Gibson rant, this time against former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

An audience for the hateful rants could put a dent in Gibson's career but it won't put him in jail. The only audience that would have that power would be a jury in a domestic violence case. Accusations have been brought by Grigorieva, but no further news on a formal criminal charge or trial has emerged, as the investigation into the accusations is still on-going.

If the Mel Gibson tapes are genuine and un-tampered with, as news outlets from FOXNews to E!Online seem to think, how would the tapes effect a trial for domestic violence? The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department told E! News on July 12 that it does consider the tapes evidence and looks for copies to be handed over by the end of the week.

If the tapes become part of the investigation, it is possible they would play a part in a plea deal the Los Angeles District Attorney's office might consider with Gibson. That is, of course, if Gibson had reason to prevent them reaching a jury. Audio tapes can be used as evidence in a trial, although doubts about their authenticity (or the potential for editing or tampering) would be an excellent way for the taped party to challenge them.

In addition, the tapes may or may not be admissible evidence. According to a report by FOXNews on July 9, Harold Copus, former FBI agent and owner of the Atlanta-based Copus Security Consultants, believes that California laws requiring the consent of both parties before a recording can be made, may keep the tapes away from a jury. "It is mostly likely that Gibson's lawyers will ask for the tapes to be court-suppressed and will do all they can to have thrown out as evidence," Copus said.

However, FOX reports California defense attorney Mark Geragos disagrees. He cites an exception in the law for cases involving violence or extortion. Among the charges brought by Oksana Grigorieva is that Gibson hit her in the face, knocking out at least one tooth.

No answers will be available until the D.A.'s office reviews the investigation and makes its recommendations regarding charges. Representatives for the actor still have not released a statement, but according to FOX, one is expected by the end of the week.

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