Robert Mullally, the legal researcher turned whistle-blower who brought attention to domestic violence felonies committed by Los Angeles police officers, may face time in federal prison for leaking personnel files to a local television station. The files documented 79 LAPD officers who had brutally beaten, and in some cases raped, wives, girlfriends and family members. None of the officers were ever arrested, and the majority remained on the force as gun-carrying police officers. By exposing the files, Mullally hoped that public outrage would lead to reform in the LAPD.
In March 2001, Mullally was sentenced to 60 days in jail. The sentence was stayed, pending an appeal, and was heard last week by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court’s decision is expected in a few months. If sentenced, Mullally could become the first person every sentenced to jail in the United States for violating a protective order in a civil law suit. Mullally’s appeal comes at a time of increasing controversy over the use of court orders to seal files containing information on pedophilia committed by priests, and on the dangers of cigarettes and automobile tires.
In the wake of the media coverage generated by Mullally’s actions, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Center for Women & Policing pushed for reforms that resulted in an investigation of the LAPD by the Inspector General, and the development of a special internal affairs unit to handle officer-involved domestic violence. Both FMF and NCWP have continued to support Mullally throughout his case by helping with court costs, filing amicus briefs on his behalf, and by publicly urging that Mullally’s sentence be overturned on the grounds that he acted to protect women and children from police officers who had abdicated their duty to protect and had themselves become threats to the public.