Skip to comments.Man facing prison for exposing officers' domestic assaults
Posted on 11/04/2002 5:57:22 PM PST by Henrietta
Like Don Quixote, Robert Mullally fought for what he believed and has been battered and bruised in the battle.
Mullally, 59, now living in Cedar Rapids, was sentenced in March 2001 to 60 days in federal prison for criminal contempt after he released sealed court documents showing a coverup of crimes committed by Los Angeles police officers against their wives and girlfriends.
"It's a dark underbelly that is so dark, it tends to shadow the whole organization," Mullally said of the Los Angeles Police Department. "I feel like I'm in a fight with the devil."
Mullally remains free as his case crawls through the federal judicial system. He learned from his attorney Wednesday that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California had upheld his January 2001 conviction but had returned the case to U.S. District Judge William Keller for reconsideration of his sentence. No date has been set for Mullally's hearing before Keller.
Once the director of personnel for the state of South Dakota and later a consultant on personnel matters, Mullally now works as a substitute teacher and teacher's aide for the Cedar Rapids school district. He landed here because his sister, Kathie Cink, a teacher at College Community School District, lives here.
Mullally's troubles began in 1994 when he was hired to examine the personnel files of Los Angeles police officers accused of domestic violence.
He accepted a consulting job with Beverly Hills attorney Gregory Yates, who was representing the families of a man and woman shot to death in 1992 by the woman's estranged husband, an LAPD police officer.
The officer, distraught over the breakup of his marriage, unloaded his service revolver into his wife and her boyfriend before killing himself.
Their deaths came only months after the officer had gone to his wife's office and assaulted her. He kicked her, punched her and pulled out wads of her hair while brandishing his gun.
The police were called, but the officer was not charged. Instead, he spoke with a counselor and after a week was returned to duty.
In lawsuits filed against the LAPD by the families of the victims, Yates charged that this officer was not an exception. The LAPD consistently covered up complaints of domestic violence by its officers by hiding them in the personnel files of the officers, Yates said.
After a bitter fight between Yates and LAPD attorneys, the court ordered the release of all police files that included allegations of domestic violence. The files were released only to the attorneys involved in the case. They were sealed from the public.
Mullally believes the federal magistrate judge who sealed the files had not read them. "I don't think the court would continue the cover-up of crimes," he said.
Yates gave the files to Mullally for examination. Initially, Mullally thought the files would contain nothing of interest.
What he discovered were accounts of horrific crimes placed out of public view in personnel files. "As long as it is couched in personnel terms, they can hide it," Mullally said.
He thought the information contained in the files would be released at trial. But in 1997 the city reached a $2.15 million out-of-court settlement with the families of the murder victims, so there was no trial -- and the documents remained sealed.
"This is awful," Mullally remembers thinking. "Something has to be done."
'60 Minutes' reporter Mike Wallace gets involved
Three months later, after going through 4,000 pages of documents line by line, Mullally turned over a 250-page summary to a reporter for the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles.
In February 2000, Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" took up Mullally's cause.
"He was given a job to do," Wallace said recently from his office in New York City. "He came up with material that seemed to prove -- it did prove -- that certain individuals on the LAPD were brutalizing their wives or girlfriends."
The files revealed 85 reports of domestic violence by 79 officers over a three-year period. Of those, Mullally said, evidence exists that a crime was committed in 75 cases.
They included an officer accused of abusing his wife and repeatedly raping her 14-year-old niece.
Another officer was accused of striking his wife so hard that her liver was ruptured. That officer received a two-day suspension, according Mullally's summary.
One officer was accused of grabbing his girlfriend by her hair and pounding her head against a dashboard 20 times. He received a 10-day suspension.
Mullally's summary showed complaints filed by wives and girlfriends including 61 felony assaults, 35 terrorist threats, 28 assaults with a deadly weapon, 20 gun-brandishing incidents, 13 child- abuse complaints and six rapes.
Mullally "found himself up against the blue wall of silence," Wallace said.
He chose a course of civil disobedience, realizing he would have to face the consequences of his actions, Wallace said.
Mullally said he thought releasing the information would force the LAPD to change its ways.
"Instead, it became an issue of how the (TV) reporter got the files," Mullally said.
"Judge Keller gave him 60 days without regard to the public's right to know the particulars," Wallace said.
Mullally is "honorable and brave," Wallace said. "He's a proper whistle-blower who, in effect, put his money where his mouth was."
If forced to serve his 60-day sentence, Mullally will serve more time than any of the LAPD officers who committed the crimes tucked away in their personnel files.
LAPD releases files; 4 officers fired but none prosecuted
The files, ultimately released by LAPD, showed punishment meted out for their offenses. None of the officers was prosecuted. Four were fired, one resigned, 19 were suspended for periods of time, seven received warnings and 48 were cleared of the allegations leveled against them.
Almost a third were eventually promoted.
"These are men who wear badges and carry loaded weapons," Mullally said.
Mullally holds out hope that Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, who assumed his duties Oct. 3, will change the way the department responds to reports of domestic abuse by officers. "He's as disgusted by this as anybody," Mullally said.
The LAPD did not respond to a request for an interview with Bratton or his media spokesperson.
'I wouldn't change a thing that I did,' says whistle-blower
Women's groups championed Mullally's release of the information and successfully lobbied the Los Angeles City Council for changes in the way the Police Department investigates domestic violence charges against officers.
Mullally has no regrets about his actions.
"I wouldn't change a thing that I did," he said. "If I was in the same position today, knowing what I would have to face, I would do it all over again. I could not live with myself if I did it any other way."
After watching a tape of the "60 Minutes" broadcast and speaking with Mullally, government students at Kennedy High School began a letter-writing campaign to the Los Angeles Times.
They want people to know that the Times got it right when the paper editorialized, "Mullally should not spend a minute in jail."
I think it is much more disturbing that one does not have the right to secretly record a dialog between a police officer stopping a citizen. It's a criminal offense to do so. A police officer can overstep his bounds and you could not prove it legally with a secret recording.
Any civilian would get a trial and due process. These cops got suspensions and terminations without trials. If that was John Q. Citizen working at the mall who got fired for domestic abuse you'd be screaming bloody murder about due process.
Oh, if that were only the case. Timothy Emerson was thrown in jail for possession of a handgun after his wife requested a restraining order for some trumped-up B.S. Emerson never got a trial to see if the restraining order was warranted. There is never a trial to see if domestic violence restraining order is warranted; they are issued as a matter of course in many divorce cases. Your assertion is absolutely, 100% wrong. Any civilian who did these things would be forever denied the right to own weapons; federal law says so.
For the record, here's what really happened to these cops: "None of the officers was prosecuted. Four were fired, one resigned, 19 were suspended for periods of time, seven received warnings and 48 were cleared of the allegations leveled against them." Sounds like they all got 'due process' to me, and they got off lightly.
I don't think that this is correct. Cite, please?
Emerson got tossed in jail because he bought a gun while under a restraining order. Not a Temporary Restraining Order, a restraining order that had been issued by a judge after a hearing. Emerson was summoned to the hearing and did not raise an objection to the order. It's not like you say, you are 100% wrong. He was aware of the conditions of the order and should have acted accordingly. He got arrested for obtaining the gun after the order was issued, he did not already have the gun and was not pinched with no warning as you imply. In spite of his actions he did catch a break from one judge before his case was reversed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals . He then got a jury trial. The jury convicted him. He got lots of due process.
Any civilian who did these things would be forever denied the right to own weapons; federal law says so.
Restraining orders usually are only in effect for three years.
No they aren't, they're Lords who do not have to abide by the same laws that they enforce against us. For example:
Gun control laws exempt military and police officers. Cops are issued guns and accessories ("assault weapons," machine guns, full-cap magazines, etc.) that would be felonies for us peasants to possess. Cops, even retired cops in some places, are granted carry permits for life, even in places that are not shall-issue to citizens, and in fact where citizens can't get carry permits.
Cops routinely speed without their lights on - to catch speeders who are breaking the speed limits.
Cops routinely send underage teens to try to buy alcohol at bars and restaurants, in order to sting the owners into committing the crime of serving alcohol to a minor. But if us citizens send minors to buy alcohol, that's contributing to the deliquency of a minor, a criminal act.
Cops also solicit prostitutes, pose as prostitutes, offer to deal drugs, and ask to buy drugs ... all of which would be criminal acts if we peasants were to do them.
Cops are also promoted (Lon Horiuchi) or given paid time off (for the one who murdered Ishmael Mena) when citizens are killed in no-knock raids or other law enforcement actions. But when citizens kill cops, they automatically become eligible for the death penalty. In some states, killing a police dog is treated legally equivalent to killing an officer - yet the police commonly kill civilian dogs as a matter of habit in law enforcement operations, if the dogs offer any trouble (usually) or even make noise and alert to their presence (Waco, Ruby Ridge).
Cops are NOT civilians.
Not true. He merely continued to possess the weapon after the restraining order, and in fact the restraining order itself forbade him from disposing ANY of his property, pending its adjudicated disposition.
In fact, one of the points raised by his laywers to the Supreme Court was that the very restraining order that commanded him to retain his possessions, including his firearms, was nevertheless preempted by the federal law that it empowered. He was in a no-win situation: dispose of the firearms in violation of the restraining order, or keep them in violation of the federal law prohibiting restraining order recipients from owning them. However, SCOTUS denied cert.
If that is the case, he is supposed to turn his firearms in to the local police dept., when the order expires he gets them back. That part is spelled out in the order. The articles I have read state that he purchased the gun after the order was issued but I won't argue that point.
He couldn't even do that - it would have required driving them on public roads, which are the articles of "interstate commerce" from which the ATF manages to get its jurisdiction. This aspect of his case is also spelled out in the brief filed by Emerson's attorney's to SCOTUS.
Text taken from the briefs:
In this case before the Court, Petitioner was unaware of any prohibition against his possession of firearms after the entry of the September 14, 1998 order. Neither the order nor the judge who entered it admonished Dr. Emerson as to its collateral effects. Furthermore, Dr. Emersons continuing possession of his firearms was a passive activity; that is, his possession of firearms continued in the same manner in which it had existed before the entry of the September 14, 1998 order, and it was the actions of a state district judge, not Dr. Emerson, which rendered Dr. Emersons possession of firearms illegal. Firearms ownership, as noted by the Court of Appeals and by the district court, is a legal activity that has no attachment of opprobrium. In fact, "there is a long tradition of widespread lawful gun ownership by private individuals in this country." Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600, 610, 114 S.Ct. 1793, 1799, 128 L.Ed.2d 608 (1994). The entry of a restraining order, unlike a felony conviction (or even a criminal conviction in general) does not effect a change in legal status that would put one on notice that ones prior, legal possession of firearms may no longer be so. The entry of a restraining order does not even effect a change in legal status akin to being under indictment, yet it is perfectly acceptable for one under indictment to continue to possess arms owned lawfully prior to the indictment. 18 U.S.C. § 922(n). Finally, there was no indication to Dr. Emerson that would have prompted his inquiry into whether his continuing possession of firearms might not be legal. The September 14, 1998 order made no mention of Dr. Emersons possession of firearms and, in fact, specifically restrained Dr. Emerson from divesting or otherwise disposing of any property of the marital estate. As such, Dr. Emerson was perfectly justified in believing that his continued possession of firearms was not only legal, but required by the restraining order of September 14, 1998. This Courts Lambert criteria are therefore satisfied by the facts of this case, and this Petition should therefore be granted to review the contrary holding of the Court of Appeals.
B. The No-Win Scenario
Once the state district judge entered the order of September 14, 1998, Dr. Emerson was placed in a position where his conduct could not be reconciled with the requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). On the one hand, Dr. Emersons continued possession of firearms, in light of Scarborough, supra, constituted a criminal offense under that statute. On the other hand, if Dr. Emerson had attempted to divest himself of his firearms, he would similarly be guilty of an offense under the same statute by shipping or transporting his firearms in interstate commerce, as Dr. Emerson would have had to transport the firearms using public roadways (channels of interstate commerce) in order to effect the divestiture. As shipment or transportation in interstate commerce is also punishable under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), that statutes provisions create a situation in which it is facially impossible for a citizen who lawfully possesses firearms and subsequently becomes subject to a qualifying restraining order to conform his conduct to the requirements of law. Additionally, as applied to the facts of this case, Dr. Emerson would have been subject to the additional penalties of criminal contempt in the state district court for violating the terms of the September 14, 1998 order restraining him from divesting or disposing of any property of the marital estate. Under such circumstances, the fundamental notions of justice embodied in the Fifth Amendments Due Process Clause mandate that the statute cannot stand, either facially or as applied to Dr. Emerson. For the Court of Appeals to hold otherwise is to so far depart from the normal course of judicial proceedings as to warrant this Courts intervention, and this Petition should therefore be granted.
They come and get them, standard practice.
Brandishing the weapon and pointing it at his wife and daughter caused this action not merely having possession. Typical doctor know it all representing himself in court. An attorney would have informed him of the federal firearm limitations. It was his duty to research his own dilemma or hire an attorney.
As you show in your link, he did receive due process. He represented himself and did not do his homework. I'd like to see the response to the linked petition.
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