Former Universal Pictures co-chairman Brian Mulligan can move forward with his lawsuit against two Los Angeles Police Department officers and the city police union stemming from a May 2012 incident in which he was beaten by authorities as he visited an Eagle Rock medical marijuana dispensary.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner, in a ruling issued on Monday, refused to dismiss Mulligan’s claim that the officers and the Los Angeles Police Protective league engaged in retaliatory acts as he pursued complaints against the officers, James Nichols and John Miller, who he said severely beat him and attempted to keep him in a nearby hotel room. Klausner did dismiss Mulligan’s state law retaliation claim on the grounds that he had not shown that the Protective League’s statements about him amounted to “threats, intimidation or coercion” as he pursued his case against the officers.
The federal judge also refused Nichols’ motion to dismiss the case, including Mulligan’s reference to the officers’ alleged history of abuse and other improper conduct while on duty as an officer. He also denied Nichols’ motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity.
Also named him Mulligan’s suit are Tyler Izen, head of the Protective League, and the city of Los Angeles.
Mulligan, represented by Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, filed his $20 million suit in February, after the bizarre late-night encounter on May 15, 2012, drew widespread media attention and led to Deutsche Bank dismissing him from his position as a top executive.
Mulligan suffered gashes across his face, in what he says was the officers’ excessive use of force but they claim was part of an effort to restrain him.
In October, the Police Protective League issued a press release and recording of Mulligan from several days earlier in which, on a visit to Glendale police, he admitted having had used “bath salts,” the designer street drugs that experts say can produce episodes of paranoia and violent behavior. Mulligan alleges that the confidential recording was released by the League as retaliation as he pursued his complaint.
In his suit, Mulligan alleges that he was “minding his own business” on the night of May 15, visiting the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles to fill a prescription of THC at a medical marijuana dispensary.
His suit claims that after he was stopped by Nichols and Miller, they gave him a field sobriety test and he passed. Rather than let him go, they handcuffed him, searched him and, without his consent, his car, where they discovered about $3,000 in cash.
Even though there “was nothing to arrest him for,” Mulligan said he asked to call his wife, or for the officers to drive him home, but they refused.
Instead, the suit states, the officers handcuffed him in the back of their car and took him to a motel, where they checked him in and ordered him not to leave or he would be “a dead motherfucker.”
Worried that he was being “set up,” Mulligan fled the motel, but encountered Nichols and Miller again.
As he tried to run, the suit claims, “they attacked him. Nichols hit Mulligan in the face with his baton, swinging it like a baseball bat, shattering Mulligan’s nose and kicking Mulligan to the pavement. Nichols and Miller the beat Mulligan in the head. Mulligan, bleeding profusely and drifting in and out of consciousness, pleaded with them to stop.”
The suit says that Miller then “inserted his baton under Mulligan’s arms and torqued Mulligan’s shoulders back, breaking Mulligan’s scapula (shoulder blade). He repeated the maneuver, breaking the bone again.
The suit claims that at the time of the incident, Nichols was under investigation by the LAPD’s internal affairs division for assaulting women “using a similar modus operandi to the one he employed with Mulligan; transporting them by threat and force to a private location; and ordering them to be compliant.”
The suit further claims that the LAPD “leaked to the media the false and inflammatory police report” written by Nichols and Miller, and that the Protective League engaged in a campaign to “smear Mulligan in the media.” Klausner wrote that Mulligan’s claims “sufficiently allege, either directly or by reasonable inference, an act by LAPPL that was done with the intent of deterring” him from pursuing his complaint.
The LAPD’s version of events differs substantially from Mulligan’s. It said that Mulligan needed to be forcibly restrained and that resulted in his hospitalization. They said that although he passed a drug evaluation test, at his request they dropped him off at the Highland Park Motel several miles nearby.
Several hours later, however, they got a call of a man running through traffic a few blocks from the motel. According to police, he was contorting his hands in a clawlike manner and snarling, and force was necessary to restrain him.
Miller, Mulligan’s attorney, said that they were “very pleased” by the ruling, and noted that even though his client’s state law claim for retaliation was dismissed, the federal claim remains. The trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18.
Eric Rose, a spokesman for the Police Protective League, said it was Mulligan who “thrust himself into the public eye by holding a press conference to discuss his wild and lurid allegations against LAPD officers. The unedited, complete version of Mulligan’s tape recorded conversation with another law enforcement agency is at odds with the tale he wove, but the tape speaks for itself.”