Bath Salts Mystery: Ex-Universal Pictures Co-Chair Breaks Silence on LAPD Beatdown
Brian Mulligan was a straight-laced finance executive who cut deals with Hollywood power players; now he's planning to sue the police and plotting a comeback.
Only Mulligan and three LAPD officers know exactly what happened in the hours leading up to the violent altercation on the border of Eagle Rock and Highland Park, roughly five miles from Pasadena. According to news reports that have cited a confidential police report, the officers first stopped Mulligan at around 10:30 p.m. May 15 outside a Jack in the Box, where he allegedly was attempting to break into cars. (He had gone to Highland Park to try to purchase medical marijuana, for which he had a prescription, but the shop had been closed, his former attorney, J. Michael Flanagan, told NBC's Today in August.) Mulligan was said by the officers to be drenched in sweat and had an unsteady gait but still passed field sobriety tests. He also admitted taking marijuana and bath salts and said he hadn't slept in four days, and officers found thousands of dollars in cash and an Irish passport in his Toyota Prius, according to reports.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that the officers took Mulligan to the nearby 26-room Highland Park Motel -- at his request -- so that he could rest. (Mulligan's stay at the motel is one of the more inexplicable mysteries of the incident. Some have wondered why officers would take a person under duress to a motel and not to a police station, hospital or even call his wife. But a knowledgeable law enforcement source tells THR that officers "have a lot of discretion -- particularly in the middle of the night." And taking Mulligan to a police station after the officers determined he hadn't committed a crime could have presented problems. "You'd probably sue for false imprisonment," this person says, adding that a review would determine whether the officers "made reasonable decisions.") The officers "were doing what they could to help him -- get him some rest at a local motel," says Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the interests of the LAPD rank and file. The group has publicized Mulligan's use of bath salts, issuing a news release detailing his rambling discussion with the Glendale officer and distributing the recording of the May 13 bath salts discussion.
At around 1 a.m., a few hours after their first May 15 encounter, the same officers responded to a report of a man attempting to break into cars not far from the motel and encountered Mulligan again, this time "forcibly pulling on the door handle of a parked car" on Meridian Street, according to an LAPD news release. When they approached him, he "took an aggressive stance by snarling and baring his teeth" and tried to hit one of the officers, prompting the use of force, the news release said. "He challenged them or took a position that resulted in a use of force," Izen concurs. In addition to the injuries to his face, Mulligan was placed in a hobble restraint -- a system of straps designed to immobilize a person -- and his shoulder blade was broken. He was rushed to Huntington Memorial. Ultimately, no charges were filed against him.
Mulligan and the officers won't discuss the incident. The LAPD declined comment, and the department has yet to conclude its internal use-of-force investigation, a standard procedure. However, Flanagan -- who once represented Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, in his involuntary manslaughter case -- spoke to several media outlets about the run-in before he stopped representing Mulligan in early September. And his recounting of events differs greatly from the police report and LAPD account. Flanagan told the Times in August that Mulligan was forcibly taken to the motel and was told he'd be killed if he left. When they saw that he had escaped, the officers beat him, the attorney said. Flanagan declined comment.
If Mulligan's prospective lawsuit against the city proceeds, the parties will be forced to relay their recollections of the incident. What role Mulligan's earlier bath salts-centered discussion with the Glendale police would play isn't clear. And how Mulligan might have been introduced to bath salts remains a mystery he won't address.
The drug, which has been tied to several violent crimes but was incorrectly linked to Rudy Eugene, the Florida man who chewed off the face of a homeless person in May, only became widely available in 2009 and has exploded in popularity. Underground chemists began producing bath salts in the early 2000s. The drug's key chemicals, substituted cathinones, mimic an alkaloid that naturally occurs in the khat plant. Bath salts have been easily obtainable at medical marijuana dispensaries and head shops.
In Mulligan's May 13 exchange with Glendale police, he expressed concern that he was ruining his life. "I just feel stupid. … I just feel like a dope," he is heard saying to the undisclosed officer, who recorded the conversation as per department policy. In addition to bath salts, Mulligan discussed his use of the sleep aid Ambien -- "I will tell you I was not myself. My mind had, like, a cast over it," he said -- and suggested that he might have turned to other drugs to help with insomnia. "Eminem had the same problem, and he doesn't know it," Mulligan told the officer, apparently referring to the rapper's public battle with addiction to Ambien. Mulligan did not explicitly link his Ambien and marijuana use to his eventual indulgence in bath salts. However, narcotics expert Mangrum says that a substance like marijuana could be a "gateway" drug that would lead to bath salts use.
It's possible that Mulligan's highflying business career was having an impact on him. In his exchange with Glendale police, Mulligan appeared to excuse his behavior by saying, "I have a very stressful job, I travel a million miles a year." Indeed, during his Deutsche Bank tenure, Mulligan was known to be a frequent business traveler. A knowledgeable source says that Mulligan used his downtown L.A. office only occasionally, often working from New York; he also kept odd hours, sometimes working from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and missing at least a few meetings. (A source close to Mulligan disputes he missed meetings and says his hours were the result of pursuing international deals, which led him to travel extensively.) And while Mulligan was chasing deals, he also was raising a family. His son stars as quarterback at an elite Pasadena prep school. Mulligan has a golf handicap of 18, and his wife volunteers in the community.
When Deutsche Bank brought on Mulligan in October 2009, the German banking and financial services firm, which maintains its U.S. headquarters in Jersey City, N.J., publicized the hire with a news release that was republished by Bloomberg and other outlets. (Deutsche Bank declined to confirm Mulligan's employment status, saying it does not discuss personnel matters.) While one source who did business with Mulligan at Deutsche Bank describes him as "an arrogant guy," he found success at the company -- helping, for example, to strengthen an existing relationship with The Walt Disney Co. and bringing one-time Deutsche client DirecTV back into the fold, according to a source. "The entertainment industry is a business that needs to be managed sort of uniquely," Mulligan told the Los Angeles Business Journal in a February 2011 interview. "You have to not squeeze it so tight that you hurt the asset and not let it so loose that it hurts you."
After the May 15 altercation, Mulligan didn't return to the downtown L.A. office until June, and he initially told colleagues he had been in a car accident, according to a source. After the incidents were exposed by news media, he returned to the office only once and left the firm in November.
As Mulligan attempts a personal and professional comeback, friends remain bewildered. "It has been the most out-of-expectation event for somebody that I knew well that I can remember," says Bruce Hack, a longtime acquaintance and one-time CFO of Universal Studios. And a family friend of the Mulligans says they always have appeared to be a devoted, tightknit bunch. "You hear stories about investment bankers in New York partying all the time. They weren't anything like that," this person says. "That's why none of us can figure this out."