Former legal researcher Robert Mullally began serving a 45-day prison term Wednesday for defying a federal judge’s order and leaking documents showing that the Los Angeles Police Department failed to discipline officers who beat and, in some cases, raped wives and girlfriends.
Mullally, 59, surrendered at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wis., after a lengthy and unsuccessful court battle to set aside his contempt conviction issued by U.S. District Judge William D. Keller.
In 1997, Mullally was hired as an expert witness for a lawyer who had sued the LAPD on behalf of a woman who was murdered by her husband, a police officer.
The lawsuit contended that the department failed to act on domestic violence complaints against its own officers.
Keller ordered the LAPD to turn over documents on officers found to have engaged in domestic violence -- on the condition that the information not be made public before trial.
Outraged when he learned that most of those 79 officers were still on the job, Mullally leaked the files to KCBS-TV Channel 2 reporter Harvey Levin, who broadcast them in an expose that resulted in public outrage and reform of how the department handles domestic violence allegations against its personnel.
But then-Police Chief Bernard C. Parks complained about the leak, and Keller ordered the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate. Mullally admitted being the source, was found guilty of contempt of court and was sentenced to 60 days in prison.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently upheld his conviction, but it vacated the sentence on the grounds that some of the protective order’s language was unclear, and because it found that Keller had wrongly concluded that Mullally was motivated by ego.
The appellate court sent the case back to Keller for resentencing, suggesting strongly that Mullally not be imprisoned. At a recent hearing, Keller sentenced him to 45 days in prison.
James Weinstein, an Arizona law professor who helped Mullally in his appeal, said Wednesday that his client felt “it just wasn’t worth any more time and energy going back to the appeals court. He just wanted to get it over with.”
Weinstein said Mullally once hoped that in reviewing his case, the 9th Circuit court would bar judges from issuing protective orders that cover up government misconduct and malfeasance. “That did not happen,” Weinstein said.
Mullally now lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he has been working as a substitute teacher.