Celebrity mishap puts Malibu in spotlight once again

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Ryan O'Neal

Ryan O’Neal’s spokesperson says the actor was defending himself against his son, Griffin O’Neal, during an incident early Saturday morning.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Just six months after the Mel Gibson drunk driving incident sparked international attention, Malibu is back in the media spotlight with another celebrity arrest. Actor Patrick “Ryan” O’Neal, 65, was taken into custody during the early hours of Saturday for assault with a deadly weapon and negligent discharge of a firearm. Since the incident occurred, news and rumors about the story have been splashed all over the tabloid and mainstream media. News trucks have been constantly parked outside O’Neal’s La Costa Beach home.

According to a press release issued by the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s station, deputies determined that O’Neal assaulted his son, Griffin O’Neal, during a dispute. JoAnne Berry, the 22-year-old pregnant girlfriend of Griffin O’Neal, was also reported to have been injured during the altercation.

The elder O’Neal was arrested and released after posting a $50,000 bond. As of press time, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had not determined whether it would press charges.

Neil Hassman, O’Neal’s spokesperson, said his client could not be available for an interview on Monday because he was working on the set of the television series “Bones.” Hassman said the incident was a matter of O’Neal defending himself. According to his story, O’Neal came back from a dinner celebration of longtime love interest Farrah Fawcett’s birthday and her being cancer-free for four months, to find his sons, Redmond and Griffin, fighting. The father attempted to intervene, and Griffin O’Neal attacked him with a fireplace poker, O’Neal has said.

“Ryan seized an opportunity to defend himself,” Hassman said. “He grabbed a gun from his room. He then fired a shot into the banister to stop Griffin, slow him down; not intending harm.”

Ryan O’Neal told a similar story to the Los Angeles Times in an article that appeared in Monday’s newspaper.

Sheriff’s officials were alerted to the incident after Berry called them to report she had been hit. Ryan O’Neal told the Los Angeles Times that Griffin O’Neal inadvertently hit her. A copy of the 911 recording was released to the media, and is available at several Web sites on the Internet. Berry can be heard requesting an ambulance and saying that she had been injured.

None of the people involved in the incident could be reached for comment.

Hassman said he does not expect O’Neal to be charged with assault since he was defending himself. He added that since the gun is registered, he does not believe the gun charge will stick either.

“I’ve spoken with all the witnesses, and they say Ryan was acting defensively,” Hassman said. “There was nothing offensive about any of Ryan’s actions at all.”

Hassman said it is still too early for the family to begin any public reconciliation over the matter, but he said something might be happening privately.

“No parent wants to have a fight with their kid that escalates this much,” Hassman said. “Ryan loves his children.”

This is not the first violent incident with the O’Neals. In 1983, authorities were called to their home regarding a fight in which Ryan O’Neal knocked out two of his son’s teeth. No charges were filed. Griffin O’Neal was also found guilty of reckless boating in 1987 for his involvement in the death of director Francis Ford Coppola’s son, Gian-Carlo Coppola. Griffin O’Neal pleaded no contest to drunk driving charges in 1989 and no contest to charges that he shot at his estranged girlfriend’s unoccupied car in 1992.