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Appeals court rejects former Hollywood exec's allegations of police abuse

Appeals court rejects former Hollywood exec's allegations of police abuse
Brian Mulligan leaves an L.A. court in 2014. On Monday, an appeals court upheld earlier rulings against Mulligan in cases he brought against L.A. police and union officials. (Cheryl A. Guerrero)

A federal appeals court Monday firmly rejected a former Hollywood and bank executive's allegations that he was beaten by Los Angeles police officers and maligned by union officials.

The decision by a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld lower court rulings in lawsuits Brian C. Mulligan brought following a bloody 2012 encounter with officers.

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Mulligan, a onetime co-chairman of Universal Pictures and executive with Deutsche Bank, was badly injured when he allegedly tried to attack two LAPD officers who were trying to take him into custody. The officers had found  Mulligan acting suspiciously in an Eagle Rock neighborhood and later encountered him trying to get into other people's cars and screaming, according to police reports.

After trying to run from the officers, Mulligan snarled and pretended to scratch at the officers as if he believed his hands were claws before charging at them, the reports said.

Mulligan's attorney at the time gave a dramatically different account of the arrest. The officers, the attorney said, had kidnapped Mulligan, 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' assertion that Mulligan had admitted to using bath salts and marijuana, and he accused the officers of lying in their arrest reports to cover up the alleged abuse. Bath salts are a group of synthetic drugs that can cause a user to become agitated and aggressive.

In response to the attorney's allegations, the Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, issued a statement that portrayed Mulligan as a drug-abusing liar and accused him of trying to "shake down" the police department.

The statement included a link to a website on which the union had uploaded an audio recording that an officer from a different department had made during a chance encounter with Mulligan shortly before the arrest. On the recording, Mulligan admits to repeated use of bath salts.

In his lawsuits Mulligan contended that the force the officers used had been improper and that union officials had infringed on his constitutional right to free speech by posting the recording — a move Mulligan said was aimed at forcing him to drop his legal fight against the officers.

Mulligan failed to prevail on any of his claims in U.S. District Court and appealed to the 9th Circuit. Mulligan's attorney raised several issues but the appeal panel shot them all down. It paid particular attention to Mulligan's constitutional claim.

"The First Amendment of the Constitution protects citizens from attempts by government officials to chill their speech. One question presented by this case is whether that same constitutional guarantee also requires those officials to remain silent when accused of misconduct, lest they risk liability for unlawful retaliation. We conclude that it does not," Judge Richard R. Clifton wrote for the panel.

Eric Rose, a former union spokesperson named in one of the lawsuits, expressed relief at the ruling.

"One cannot hold a high-profile news conference accusing public officials of misconduct and threaten those same public officials with liability for unlawful retaliation if they respond to those allegations," he said.

Mulligan's attorney, Louis "Skip" Miller, disagreed.

"It's wrong," he said of the ruling, pledging to seek another hearing in front of the 9th Circuit.

Follow @joelrubin on Twitter

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