As far as news releases go, the one the Los Angeles police union put out was highly unusual.
It dealt with Brian C. Mulligan, a Hollywood executive turned banker, who had been arrested by LAPD officers. In the news release, the union portrayed Mulligan as a drug-abusing liar and accused him of trying to "shake down" the Police Department.
The evidence? A secret recording that a police officer in nearby Glendale had made of Mulligan a few days before his arrest. Sounding agitated and paranoid, Mulligan admitted on the recording to using a potent type of bath salts, a synthetic drug that can cause paranoia. The union embedded in the release a link to the recording, which it had uploaded to its website.
It was a counterattack on Mulligan. The Deutsche Bank executive had gone public with a strange, troubling account of his arrest, in which he was badly injured. Officers, he said through an attorney, had kidnapped him, forced him to go to a motel and then beat him in a brutal, unprovoked attack when he tried to flee. He also denied the officers' claim that he had admitted using bath salts and marijuana, and he accused the officers of lying in their arrest report to cover up the alleged abuse.
How the audio recording made its way into the hands of the Los Angeles Police Protective League and its decision to publish it are at the heart of a lawsuit filed recently by Mulligan. In it, and in a related lawsuit, Mulligan has accused union officials of conspiring with a lawyer in the L.A. city attorney's office and a media consultant to "publicly vilify" Mulligan and pressure him to drop his demands for millions of dollars in damages.
The union has stoutly defended its right to publish the audio recording, saying in a court filing that it was acting "to defend the reputation of the two officers" who arrested Mulligan and was free to release the recording because it was not confidential.
An attorney for Eric Rose, the union media consultant named in the recent lawsuit, echoed that idea, saying Rose and the union had the right to disseminate Mulligan's "very public truthful admission which he finds embarrassing."
The case offers a look into how the union mobilized to defend officers who its officials feel have been wrongly accused.
The odd events that ended with Mulligan's arrest began late one night in May last year. Officers from the LAPD's Northeast Division were dispatched to a neighborhood near Occidental College after people reported a man trying to get into locked cars, according to police and court records. They came upon Mulligan, who matched the man's description, walking in the street and stopped him.
In Mulligan's car parked nearby, an officer found what appeared to be bath salts, which are not illegal to possess, according to a recounting of events by the Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD. Although they noticed he was "sweating profusely and appeared unsteady," the officers determined Mulligan was not drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs.
Mulligan asked the officers to bring him to a motel, according to accounts given by the officers and a police supervisor who was at the scene. They agreed, dropping him off at one nearby. The officers told investigators they advised Mulligan to stay in the room and left his car key with the motel manager.
About an hour later, the same officers encountered Mulligan again when they saw him "screaming and dragging a metal trash can in the street," police reports show. Mulligan tried to open the doors of several cars and then ran away from the officers, according to the LAPD's official account of the incident. The officers gave chase and said they found Mulligan snarling and thrashing and swiping at them as if he believed his hands were claws. They claimed Mulligan charged at them. The officers said they pushed him to the ground and kicked and struck him in the torso with a baton, according to police records.
When it was over, Mulligan's nose was broken in several places and his shoulder blade fractured. After an internal investigation, the Police Commission found the officers' use of force was justified.
Mulligan's account of the night differs dramatically. He claimed the officers took him to the motel against his will and then attacked him when he fled, beating him in the face and on the head and deliberately breaking his shoulder blade.
After reviewing the case, prosecutors for the district attorney and city attorney chose not to pursue any criminal charges against Mulligan.
That August, Mulligan had hired an attorney, who went to the media with Mulligan's account of the night and claimed the officers had fabricated their report. Rose took note of the news reports on Mulligan's claims. In an email to Tyler Izen, president of the L.A. Police Protective League, Rose warned that "the BS story concocted by Brian Mulligan from Deutsche bank is getting legs," court records show. He ended by asking Izen, "Is there anything we can put out or say to discredit this guy"?
Weeks later, court records show, Rose learned from an acquaintance about the existence of the audio recording the Glendale officer made. In it, Mulligan acknowledged snorting bath salts as many as 20 times. Saying he knew he sounded paranoid, Mulligan told the officer he feared a helicopter was following him.
Rose and Izen set out to get the recording. They turned first to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other top LAPD officials for help, but were told the department didn't have a copy. Izen then asked Glendale police directly but was rebuffed.
Later, when he learned Glendale officials had given a copy of the recording to LAPD officers investigating the force used to arrest Mulligan, Izen and Rose once again pressed the LAPD. Beck and other senior officials were aware of the recording and the union's desire to get a copy, but Beck refused to hand it over, emails show.
The union then turned to Cory Brente, a veteran lawyer who handles cases involving LAPD officers for the city attorney's office. That office declined to comment on the case. Brente did not respond to phone calls and emails.
Brente asked a detective who was working on the Mulligan investigation to make him a copy of the recording, according to court records. While at home and using his personal email account, Brente sent the recording to Izen on Oct. 10, 2012, court records show. He followed it up with messages to Izen, advising the union to hold off on releasing the recording and then spring it on Mulligan if he again denied using drugs.
"This would certainly sink his case and his reputation," Brente wrote.