LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Little is known publicly about the squabbling between Mel Gibson and his ex-girlfriend beyond the racist and sexist rants heard last year on the Web, but one day after police completed a lengthy probe into the matter, new details have come to light.
The Los Angeles Times on Thursday published what it said were e-mails, text messages, attorneys' notes and information from legal papers between the "Braveheart" actor and Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of Gibson's infant daughter, as well as lawyers representing the pair in their long and bitter breakup.
At stake in the split are millions of dollars, possible criminal charges of abuse and extortion, and the further tarnishing of Gibson's career that in the past included major box office paydays and Hollywood's top film honor, the Oscar.
The pair announced their breakup in April of last year, and what followed were months of accusations that played out in media headlines. She claimed he punched her and knocked out her teeth. He asked police to look into his belief she was blackmailing him by secretly taping a phone call between the two in which he used a racial slur and made sexist comments.
When audio tapes of that call turned up on celebrity news website Radaronline.com in July 2010, they indeed proved damaging to Gibson at a time when he was trying to rebound from anti-Semitic statements he made in 2006 when arrested for drunken driving.
While he has never admitted the voice on the tapes was his, it is distinctive and widely believed to be him. Gibson has never denied it was him. In fact, he has not spoken publicly about the matter, nor have his representatives.
In its "review" of the material, the Los Angeles Times paints a picture of two people who, even as their attorneys talked of a breakup valued around $20 million, were still texting and calling each other.
"You don't call. You don't accept my invitation to come. You hand tapes around and jeopardize us all," Gibson is said to have texted Grigorieva the same day his attorneys offered her a deal valued at $18 million, the Times reported.
But Grigorieva returned with a message that he had broken his promise to care for her and their infant daughter, Lucia. "I wouldn't have played ur messages if u were keeping ur word," she wrote, according to the Times.
Grigorieva has consistently denied she leaked the tapes.
Citings from attorneys' notes also reveal that Gibson's counselors knew how damaging the tapes might be. "Never should become public. Devastating to everyone -- including baby," wrote one of the his attorneys in a note, the Times reported.
The tapes did prove damaging. Gibson's movie "The Beaver" saw its release date pushed back to later this year. His talent agency dropped him. The actors of one movie in which he had a small role, "The Hangover Part II," refused to work with him.
Now, Gibson faces a possible criminal charge of physical abuse, and Grigorieva is staring at a possible criminal complaint she tried to extort millions from the movie star.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriffs turned over the findings of their investigation to the District Attorney's office, which will decide whether anyone should be prosecuted.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Jill Serjeant