Jury rules against banker in LAPD excessive force claim
The banker was on bath salts at the time of his arrest; jurors found that the officers involved did not batter him
By Linda Deutsch
LOS ANGELES — A former banker and movie executive who said police beat him with batons in a bizarre street confrontation lost his $20 million excessive force claim on Friday against the Los Angeles Police Department.
During the three-day trial, Brian Mulligan acknowledged that he had used a drug mixture known as bath salts in the weeks leading up to the May 2012 incident. Police officers said he appeared delusional, wandering the streets with crumpled $100 bills falling out of his pockets and made animal sounds when they confronted him.
"This guy had gone crazy," Officer John Miller told jurors. "He'd lost his marbles. I was a bit scared. I'd never seen anybody frothing at the mouth and growling as an adult human being."
Mulligan, once a globe-trotting executive who logged a million air miles a year, said he was driven to the drug to deal with sleeping problems but denied the substance made him paranoid during the confrontation.
Jurors in federal court deliberated less than three hours before finding that two officers didn't violate Brian Mulligan's federal or state civil rights and didn't batter him.
Mulligan, his lawyers and his wife, Victoria, rushed out of the courtroom and declined to comment to reporters. Jurors also declined to comment.
Defense attorneys and the officers said they were delighted with the decision.
"I'm just extremely happy," Miller said outside court. "I'm employed. ... We did nothing wrong."
Peter Ferguson, who represented Officer James Nichols, said experts who testified for the plaintiff couldn't persuade the jury because the officers did nothing wrong.
"These officers have had to live with these allegations for the last year or so," the lawyer said. "They're glad they are getting back to work."
However, Nichols is on leave pending disciplinary hearings in other cases.
The Los Angeles City Council agreed earlier this month to pay $575,000 to settle a lawsuit from a former police informant who alleged Nichols and another officer forced her to have sex. Nichols and the other officer face LAPD disciplinary hearings for this and three similar cases. Nichols has denied wrongdoing.
Miller has no other charges pending against him and has been working throughout the trial.
U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner ruled that Nichols' history could not be admitted in court unless he was convicted of the excessive force count and it became an issue in assessing damages.
Mulligan's suit claimed that he suffered a broken nose and shoulder and other injuries along with mental torture from the unprovoked beating, and that the officers bludgeoned him with their batons.
On Friday, jurors left their deliberations room once to examine one of the batons.
The officers testified that they restrained but did not beat him, and Nichols said he hadn't used his baton in 13 years on the force.
The one-time Deutsche Bank official said he had used bath salts at least 20 times — but not on the night of the encounter.
Nichols testified that Mulligan told him he had taken a type of bath salts called "White Lightning" four days earlier and hadn't slept since.
The case played out against a backdrop of horrifying photos of Mulligan's smashed nose and face. He said he suffered multiple fractures of the nose and lost his sense of smell. He said he still suffers panic and flashbacks to the incident. An expert witness for Mulligan's side testified the injuries clearly were inflicted by a baton.
Mulligan lost his job with the bank over the incident that was highly publicized. He also had been co-chairman of Universal Pictures and chief financial officer with Seagrams Co.
A civilian oversight board found the officers' use of force to be appropriate, and a claim against the city over his lost bank job was dismissed.
Prevented from mentioning Nichols' history, Mulligan's attorney referred to him in closing arguments as "evil" and "a bad cop." But jurors were never told why.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press