Police Testimony: Ex-Universal Exec 'Crazy,' 'Frothing at Mouth' When Beaten
The two police officers involved in the excessive force case involving Brian Mulligan took to the stand on Wednesday to testify in the civil lawsuit brought against them and the city of Los Angeles by the former co-chairman of Universal Pictures.
Both L.A. police officers -- James Nichols and John Miller -- told a similar story of what happened in northeast Los Angeles on the night of May 15 and the morning of May 16, 2012, but it was dramatically different to what the investment banker said happened during his own testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday before Judge Gary Klausner.
Mulligan has claimed he was the victim of excessive force resulting in both his nose and his shoulder blade being broken, and is seeking $20 million in damages.
He has also claimed the police officers told him they were going to shoot him up with heroin to kill him. Mulligan had admitted he used a drug known as bath salts just four days before the incident.
First to the stand was Nichols, who has since been suspended from duty. Mulligan's attorney, Skip Miller, has said that the LAPD knew or should have been aware of sexual assault allegations against Nichols prior to the alleged incident. The city has claimed the 2010 complaint was investigated but not substantiated. However, there is a disciplinary hearing scheduled in the matter and the L.A. City Council has allocated more than half a million dollars to pay the victim in the case.
Looking composed and in control, Nichols described the incident in detail under questioning by defense attorney Denise Zimmerman and cross-examination by Skip Miller. Zimmerman represents the city and officer John Miller, while Nichols is represented in court by Peter Ferguson.
Nichols said he and Miller were called to the campus of Occidental College on the night in question where they found Mulligan under a spotlight from a police helicopter "acting strangely."
"He was rigid, robot-like with a steady gait, and he was covered with sweat," recalled Nichols.
He went on to say that Mulligan told him he had used a form of bath salts called "White Lightning" four days earlier. Nichols and later John Miller said they had never heard of bath salts and Googled it to learn that it was a drug that, at the time, was legal.
Nichols said he has been trained to identify whether someone has used illegal drugs or substances and he determined that Mulligan had not. He did note that Mulligan seemed agitated, talked non-stop and had an elevated pulse. Mulligan had no driver’s license or I.D. but after questioning said he did have a passport and license in his car. Nichols said he offered to lead the officers to his vehicle, but could not, at first, say what the make was and could not find it in his confused state. Still they determined he was not a criminal and not dangerous to himself or others at that point.
As they drove looking for the car, Nichols, and later Miller, said Mulligan talked non-stop about his pending divorce, and said that he was an investment banker, among other things. "It was abnormal, his talkativeness," said Nichols. "It was random, incoherent, in no logical order."
Both officers said Mulligan had a lot of cash on him, some in large bills, that was wadded up and stuffed in his pockets, which was later determined to be over $3,000. He refused their multiple offers, they said, to have him picked up by a family member, or by a taxi. They finally said he agreed to be taken to a nearby Highland motel.
At the motel, Miller recalled that Mulligan had a hard time focusing on filling out the registration card and threw money at the motel manager. While still in the lobby a little later, they said that they heard screaming and saw Mulligan running back yelling that there was a man in his room. The policemen and manager accompanied him back to room 208, where they say Mulligan told them the man he had seen was in the drawer of a night table. They found no one there, or anywhere in the room, and told Mulligan to stay there and sleep it off and left.
About an hour later, Nichols and Miller were elsewhere in the area dealing with a DUI arrest along with officer Victoria Barach, who also testified in the case on Wednesday (and is scheduled to continue her testimony Thursday).
Barach said at about 1 a.m. she heard a metallic scraping noise and saw a man dragging a garbage can down the street. She pointed him out to Nichols and Miller, who recognized Mulligan and said they would handle it, leaving her to wrap up those arrested for drunk driving. Before they could get to him, Nichols and Miller testified that they saw Mulligan go out into the street and try to open a car door to steal the car. When that vehicle drove off, they say Mulligan tried another.
At that point, said Nichols, they felt Mulligan had committed several crimes – going into traffic, trying to hijack a car and more -- but then he ran off and they went in pursuit.
Nichols said he jumped out of the squad car to chase Mulligan down. He was wearing a gun and bulletproof vest, and had some chemical weapons, but said he left his baton in the car. That detail was crucial as much of Mulligan’s case hinges on his insistence that it was Nichols, who is far shorter than his partner, who struck him in the face and shoulder with his baton causing his severe injuries. Miller later admitted he did use a baton on Mulligan as they tried to get him under control, but only on his back and never on his face.
Nichols said when he called out to Mulligan to stop, the banker instead ran away. When Nichols and Miller got Mulligan between them, he was shouting and frothing at the mouth. "I felt this guy was going crazy," said Officer Miller, a 29-year old former Marine. "He's lost his marbles. I was a little scared. I’ve never seen anybody froth at the mouth before."
The banker allegedly put his arms up and made his hands into claws as he growled at them loudly; and then when trapped tried to head butt Nichols. "He charged me," said Nichols, adding: "I was afraid he would hurt me."
Both officers say they tried to calm Mulligan down by saying they were the same police officers who helped him earlier, but he would not listen or do what they told him to do. They wrestled Mulligan to the ground and tried to cuff him, but he continued to fight them off and they couldn’t get him under control, they testified. Miller put out a call for backup and Officer Barach responded. When she got there, the three of them, sitting on Mulligan and kicking him in the side, finally got the cuffs on, but they say he continued to struggle, flopping over and trying to bite them. "Even after he was handcuffed he tried to kick us and head butt us," Miller said, adding that Mulligan continued to use curse words, spit and struggle.
At that point, the officer shined his flashlight down and realized, for the first time, that Mulligan's face was bloody, but thought that he had hurt himself when he was on the ground. Under repeated questioning, Officer Miller said his partner did not have a baton, and he never saw Nichols strike Mulligan with his baton. He also denied ever hearing Nichols threaten to use heroin to kill Mulligan. Miller insisted they treated Mulligan with respect and followed the rules.
Earlier in the day, after Mulligan completed his testimony, the defense called Harry Smith of Houston, Texas, as an expert witness. A former emergency room doctor, he testified that Mulligan's face and shoulder injuries were consistent with being hit with a baton. The defense challenged his credentials and noted he was being paid $700 an hour to testify, but Dr. Smith kept his cool and was consistent.
The trial resumes on Thursday and is expected to wrap by the end of the day, at which point the case will be turned over to the eight-person jury for a decision.