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Mel and Oksana's Day in Court

The Daily Beast, Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 2:11pm (PST)

Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva met on Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles for the latest round in their bitter courtroom battle. But as Christine Pelisek reports, the biggest fight is about the media.

The latest round in the ongoing battle between Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva was fought on Wednesday afternoon in Hollywood's equivalent of a wrestling ring -- a downtown Los Angeles courthouse.

As impatient celebrity reporters hovered in the hallway, hoping for glimpses of the main players, lawyers for the two argued their case inside the courtroom. When Gibson and Grigorieva finally did arrive -- separately -- both wore courthouse-appropriate attire (blazers both; she behind big sunglasses), and both refused to comment. (Oksana's mother came, too, waiting outside the courtroom all day.)

Among the issues during Wednesday's hearing was child support payments; whether the actor is unfit to care for his daughter, and if the media should have access to the nasty courtroom conflict between the actor and his one-time paramour, who are fighting over child custody and charges of extortion and domestic-violence.

"We should be able to speak to the press," Daniel Horowitz, the lead attorney for Grigorieva said. As he dashed out after the morning's hearing, he added that he couldn't talk about the specifics of the case.

"There is no gag order," chimed in Martin Garbus, a first amendment lawyer on Grigorieva's team, who once represented comedian Lenny Bruce Gibson's attorneys, for their part, declined to speak to the gaggle of reporters outside the courtroom. He later walked out and said the judge had denied Gibson's request for a full gag order, but said depositions would be sealed.

And what exactly went down inside the courtroom was unclear. TMZ, citing "sources," said her team would ask the judge to order Gibson to undergo therapy for anger issues. People magazine reported that the judge ordered Gibson to pay Griborieva $60,000 in outstanding child support of their one-year-old daughter, Lucia.

In addition to several high-powered lawyers, Grigorieva has employed a bevy of publicists who have taken her case to the public. The former Russian singer has appeared on the cover of People magazine and was reportedly talking to Oprah Winfrey and Dateline about possible interviews. Her lawyers have also pushed back against the suggestion that Grigorieva leaked the now-famous Mel tapes, with Horowitz appearing on NBC's Today show.

But the PR offensive is a strategy that could backfire, observers say.

"She's gone from a stage of, 'This is a serious issue of domestic violence,' to the Octomom stage," Ross Johnson, head of strategic communications at the public-relations firm PMK-BMC, told The Daily Beast last month. "It's a dangerous game," Johnson said. "The judge wants legal cases litigated in the courtroom, where it should be litigated. After a certain point, if your PR campaign is too obviously playing out in the media, it can hurt you in the courtroom."

After the revelation of the Mel tapes this summer, the media campaign was hers to lose. (In the now -famous tapes obtained by RadarOnline.com, Gibson was heard telling Grigorieva that "You look like a f------ pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n------s, it will be your fault," among other slurs and abuses.)

In short order, a criminal investigation into domestic violence allegations was launched, and Gibson was dumped by his Hollywood talent agency.

Lately, however, it seems that the actor is back on top, with his legal team pushing back against her allegations. Indeed, some industry observers believe that the star will keep working.

Christine Pelisek is staff reporter for The Daily Beast, covering crime. She previously was a reporter at the LA Weekly, where she covered crime for the last five years. In 2008, she won three Los Angeles Press Club awards, one for her investigative story on the Grim Sleeper.

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