As the actor and Oksana's court battle continues, experts answer five pressing legal questions

By Ken Lee
July 18, 2010 02:30 PM
Dominique Charriau/WireImage

As the all-out custody war between Mel Gibson and ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva roils on, sheriffs continue their criminal probe of the actor for domestic violence allegations. Five experts discuss what’s at stake.

Could Gibson be facing jail time?
“I doubt it,” says former L.A. prosecutor Jeffery Rubenstein. “At most, Mel will probably be charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. Oksana’s alleged injuries don’t seem to rise to a felony level and because Mel has no serious prior convictions, that’ll also lessen his chances of a felony. His alleged threats, while horrifying and completely over-the-top, aren’t necessarily a crime; there has to be evidence of a real intent to carry them out. If convicted, he’ll probably get probation and counseling.”

Gibson has accused Oksana of extortion. What are the chances she’ll be convicted?
“It sounds like a far-fetched accusation and more of a basic defensive reaction by his legal team,” says L.A. criminal defense attorney Trent Copeland. “Extortion will be very difficult to prove. It’s completely routine to use incriminating evidence as leverage against another in a legal proceeding. But if she’s found guilty of this, it’d be a felony, and punishment would be upwards of one year in jail.”

Will the leaked tapes purportedly of Mel and Oksana be admissible in court?
“In general, it’s illegal to tape someone without their knowledge but it’s sometimes allowed in domestic violence situations,” says L.A. criminal defense attorney Steve Sitkoff. “But the law in that regard isn’t clear cut; there’s lots of gray area. If the tapes are deemed illegal, they won’t exist to a jury. The motive of the taping appears suspect; Oksana is extremely calm and appears to be provoking him. And if Mel was under the influence while making his threats, that would make it even harder to prove criminal intent.”

Are the tapes authentic? Could there have been parts edited out?
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the tapes were altered in some way, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t authentic,” says Dallas-based forensic tape analyst Herbert Joe. “It’s all up to the judge to determine the [overall] trustworthiness of the tapes on the whole.”

Grigorieva reportedly asked the court to strip Gibson of all custody rights last Thursday, but she was denied. Why?
“It’s clear the judge didn’t feel Mel was any imminent threat to the baby,” says L.A. family lawyer Scott Weston. “As terrifying as the tapes sound, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a danger to his daughter – and that’s the judge’s main concern. The judge is certainly going to want to determine if he committed any domestic violence, and if so, the judge can extend restraining orders against him and order him to counseling. This is going to be a long slog of a case with many hearings ahead; there won’t be a quick resolution.”

• Reporting by SARA HAMMEL