Trial begins in federal court in LA
Former Universal Pictures co-chairman Brian Mulligan told jurors Tuesday that he was “scared to death” that the LAPD would kill him as testimony began in his lawsuit against the LAPD and two officers.
“I felt pure fear,” Mulligan said in Los Angeles federal court as he testified about details of the harsh beating he says he underwent in Eagle Rock on May 16, 2012.
The trial, expected to resume Wednesday, presented two starkly different versions of the events of that evening — one of Mulligan as a buttoned-down investment banker seeking a sleep aid at an Eagle Rock marijuana dispensary who was told by officers that they were shooting him up with heroin in order to kill him; and the other as an unhinged and incoherent drug abuser who was frothing at the mouth and threatening the officers with physical harm.
Mulligan claims he was the victim of excessive force by since-suspended officers James Nichols and John Miller, who broke his nose in 15 places and broke his shoulder blade. The LAPD and the two officers contend that they had responded to someone breaking into cars who matched Mulligan’s description; they also said that he had earlier gone into the Glendale police station to admit use of “bath salts,” the then-legal street drugs that experts say can produce episodes of paranoia and violent behavior.
Mulligan admitted on the stand on direct examination that he had last used bath salts two weeks before the beating in the form of a product called “white lightning,” but had not used them after that.
Defense attorney Denise Zimmerman told the eight-member jury in her opening statement that officers found two bottles of “white lightning” in Mulligan’s car along with “tons” of wadded currency, numerous prescription drugs, sex toys and a plastic bag of lubricant that had exploded.
“He was talking non-stop and said he had not slept in four days,” Zimmerman noted. “He did not want to go home because he was divorcing his wife.”
Zimmerman also indicated that the defense will introduce an audio recording, made by Glendale Police several days before the incident, in which Mulligan is heard admitting to an officer that he had used bath salts 20 times. She had just began a cross-examination of Mulligan in which she took issue with Mulligan’s assertion that he had taken and passed an exam by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority on the previous day.
Zimmerman said there was no record of the test while Mulligan strongly disputed that assertion.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner has set the schedule of the case so that the issue of excessive force goes to the jury by Friday. If the rules in favor of Mulligan, the trial will proceed to its second phase, where the jury will be charged with determining damages and whether the LAPD was negligent in supervising Nichols.
Mulligan’s legal team, led by Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, has asserted in the suit that LAPD knew or should have known of sexual assault complaints against Nichols prior to the beating. The city claims that a complaint made to Internal Affairs in 2010 was not substantiated.
Mulligan said the officers forced him to go to a dilapidated apartment building after they confronted him outside the marijuana dispensary. He did so but left and headed for Occidental College, where the officers met him again and gave him a field sobriety test, which he passed, then handcuffed him and forced him to check in to the Highland Park Motel — threatening to kill him if he left before morning.
The officers also refused to let him call his wife and told him repeatedly to “shut the f–k up.”
Fearful that he was being set up, Mulligan left the motel but encountered the officers an hour later. He testified that Nichols struck him with his baton, swinging it like a baseball bat, shattering his nose and knocking him to the pavement. He testified that the officers then beat him in the head, put him on the curb, cuffed his hands behind his back and “torqued” his shoulders and broke Mulligan’s scapula.
“It was the worst pain of my life,” he said. “It was a nightmare night.”
Mulligan was terminated from his job at Deutsche Bank shortly after the police union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, released the Glendale tape to the media.