A three-judge federal appellate panel rejected former Universal Pictures chairman Brian Mulligan‘s appeal in his civil suit against the city of Los Angeles and the police union over a 2012 incident in which he was beaten and then claimed that he was subject to retaliation.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges upheld a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of the city and the two police officers involved in the incident, James Nichols and John Miller. They also didn’t find fault with the district court’s exclusion of evidence that Nichols had previously been accused of sexual assault while on duty, and its exclusion of the fact that Mulligan was not charged with any crime for his conduct on the night of the incident.
The appellate judges ruled, in rejecting Mulligan’s claim of police negligence, that he “has failed to demonstrate a sufficiently close causal link between the officers’ decision to take him to the motel and their eventual use of force.”
Mulligan, who was hospitalized after suffering a broken nose and shoulder blade, claimed that he was the victim of rogue officers.
He testified at a 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.”
The LAPD claimed that they were responding to a report that Mulligan was behaving erratically, and then took him to a motel and checked him in. But later that night, they said they found Mulligan running down the street screaming and attempting to open locked cars. They said that he charged at them and needed to be restrained.
After Mulligan filed a complaint over his treatment, the city police union issued a press release and released 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.
But the appellate judges ruled that the media leaks of the recording were not enough to “demonstrate a constitutional violation” of Mulligan’s First Amendment rights.
Mulligan was a vice chairman of Deutsche Bank at the time, but his employer fired him after the Glendale tape was released.
The appellate judges ruled that the allegations against Nichols “had nothing to do with the excessive force claim at issue in the trial. Evidence of prior bad acts is not admissible except to show ‘motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.’ The accusations that Nichols had sexually assaulted vulnerable women involved conduct distinct from the excessive force allegations at issue in Mulligan’s case.”
Nichols and Luis Valenzuela, his partner in the Hollywood division, plead not guilty to the charges earlier this year.