Brian Mulligan, the former Universal Pictures chairman who sued the Los Angeles Police Department for excessive use of force and retaliation stemming from a 2012 incident in Eagle Rock, says that the record of one of the officers, recently indicted on unrelated rape charges, should have been allowed in his case.
The officer, James Nichols, was indicted earlier this week on multiple sexual assault charges along with another officer, Luis Valenzuela. They are charged with raping several women while on duty.
Nichols was also the officer who apprehended Mulligan in the 2012 encounter. The LAPD claimed that officers needed to restrain Mulligan after he had shown aggressive behavior toward them that evening. But Mulligan, who was hospitalized after the incident with a broken nose and shoulder blade, and other injuries, contended that he feared for his life and was the victim of rogue officers.
A federal jury in 2014 ruled that Nichols and another officer, John Miller, who were also defendants in Mulligan’s case, had not violated his civil rights and had not engaged in battery. Mulligan and his attorney, Skip Miller, appealed the district court decisions, with oral arguments scheduled for March 7 in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a statement, Mulligan said: “I am beyond proud of the women who came forward despite the alleged threats against them. I only wish that the true nature of Officer Nichols had been allowed to be shown to the jury in my civil case, which is on appeal.”
“I applaud the courage of the victims in coming forward and the district attorney in filing the criminal case against the officers,” Mulligan added. “Together these actions may lead to a safer Los Angeles and ethical police force.”
According to county prosecutors, Nichols and Valenzuela allegedly began sexually assaulting four women at various locations, including in their police vehicle. The four women has been arrested at various times by the officers during narcotics-related offenses, prosecutors said. If convicted, they face up to life sentences in state prison.
In his appeal, Mulligan argues that Nichols already had an “extensive, documented history of assaults” at the time of the 2012 incident, but that the LAPD failed to remove him from active duty. Nichols’ record was not allowed to be entered into evidence in the trial.
Mulligan also contends that after he filed a claim against the city and the officers, the LAPD, the police union and the city attorney’s office joined forces in retaliation. That included a press release and the release of an audio tape in which Mulligan admits to using bath salts while talking to a Glendale police officer days before the incident.
Mulligan testified at the trial that it was “just a mistake” that he had used them, but he has contended that he was not under the influence of the synthetic drug the night of the incident.
“Defendants obtained the Glendale audio tape under false pretenses, then colluded to leak it in violation of the LAPD’s confidentiality rules, and then publicly maligned and humiliated Mulligan by way of a vicious press release,” Mulligan’s legal team, led by Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, wrote in an appellate brief.
Mulligan was a vice chairman of Deutsche Bank at the time, but his employer fired him after the Glendale tape was released, his brief states.
Mulligan testified at the 2014 trial that he feared for his life that evening, as the officers, after their initial encounter with him, dropped him off at a nearby motel and threatened him if he left. Mulligan did leave, only to encounter them again, when he was beaten. He claimed that Nichols struck him with his baton, swinging it like a baseball bat, and then used his baton to restrain him by his shoulder blades, breaking his scapula twice.
Mulligan’s appellate brief also says that a jury should be allowed to consider whether it was reasonable for the officers to sequester him that evening in the “crime-ridden Highland Park Motel” and then cause “him to flee in fear, resulting in the use of force on Meridian Street.” His legal team also says that jurors should have been allowed to hear evidence that authorities declined to charge Mulligan with any crime.
According to a report presented by Mulligan’s attorneys, a drug test conducted at the hospital turned up negative for drugs other than sleep aids.
At the trial, attorneys for the officers and LAPD presented a much different story. They portrayed Mulligan as an unhinged drug abuser who was under the influence to the point of frothing at the mouth and threatening the officers with physical harm. At the trial, a city attorney told the jury that officers found two bottles of “white lightning” in Mulligan’s car after they confronted him outside a medical marijuana dispensary on that night — triggering the chain of events leading to the beating.
Nichols’ attorney Jules Zeman, in an appellate brief, argued that when the officers arrived Mulligan appeared “greatly disoriented and incoherent.” After he was uncooperative in contacting relatives or friends who could take him home, they tried to drop him off at a motel to “sleep it off,” but he became “even more erratic,” according to Nichols’ brief.
They encountered him again an hour later “trying to open locked parked cars and trying to enter one car that was being driven by a frightened woman.” When they tried to apprehend him, he “persisted in fighting the officers” as they tried to restrain him.
In the brief, Zeman wrote that because the sexual assault allegations against Nichols were “allegations,” the district court was right to exclude them. He also noted that the trial was bifurcated, with the case proceeding if the jury first found that Mulligan was the victim of battery or assault, which they did not. Had they done so, Zeman wrote, evidence of Nichols’ prior history could have been presented.