Local residents receive mysterious “get well” cards; FBI leading the investigation
By Eddie Rivera, News Editor
Convicted felon and controversial Tujunga newspaper publisher David DeMulle, 75, is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Postal Service in connection with the mailing of several envelopes containing a “get well” card and an unknown powdery substance this past summer.
The cards were mailed to a small number of local residents, each of whom had sent letters to the federal prosecutor in DeMulle’s recent firearms violation case, in which he pled guilty in December 2016.
A temporary restraining order was served on DeMulle at his home on September 18 by LA County Sheriff’s deputies, at the request of Foothill Record publisher Sonia Tatulian, who, like other local community members, has been a frequent target of DeMulle’s erratic and angry outbursts, both before and after his arrest. A Superior Court judge in Pasadena, however, lifted the order in October along with another temporary restraining order request from yet another resident and target of his harassment.
DeMulle, who has been free on $25,000 bail—paid by his girlfriend, Linda Brand—since his sentencing, has long conducted a campaign of harassment against a number of local residents, publishing false news stories in his newspaper and mailing derogatory letters and fliers, insulting a wide range of perceived enemies.
Meanwhile, numerous local shops and businesses, including the DIY hardware store and Albertsons supermarket, have refused to carry DeMulle’s newspaper, largely due to DeMulle’s harassment and verbal abuse of local residents, mainly through his newspaper. He also has reportedly targeted residents in a recent mailing to local businesses and to members of the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce.
It is unknown how the bankrupt DeMulle can afford to publish his newspaper, as a number of advertisers have withdrawn their ads from his paper, and others, loyal to DeMulle, are given their ads for free. DeMulle’s papers also are often tossed into trash bins upon their delivery by residents angered by his erratic behavior and biased news coverage.
Mystery “Get Well” Cards
According to Tatulian, on July 21, she saw a Facebook posting by a friend who had just received a letter in a blue envelope with no return address. Inside the envelope was a “get well” card and a mysterious pink-colored powder.
Alarmed, Tatulian donned plastic gloves, went to her mailbox immediately, and found a similar envelope. She placed the unopened letter on her patio table, and then called the Los Angeles Police Department. Within an hour, Tatulian’s street saw about 20 police cruisers, Postal Service agents, a HazMat van with specially suited technicians, and at least two FBI agents.
Her friend had seen the same scene at her home earlier that afternoon.
So had another friend, and another, and another. In all, nine local residents, all of whom have requested anonymity for fear of DeMulle’s retaliation, were sent the mysterious get-well cards. Each had also previously written a letter to the federal prosecutor, asking that DeMulle receive the maximum sentence in his firearms case.
According to a resident at the scene on July 21, an LAPD detective, while handing the letters to the FBI after their inspection, looked at the agent, nodded, and said, “Same guy. DeMulle.”
The letters apparently were written by a woman. “That’s one of his girlfriends,” said a recipient. According to one FBI agent, the investigation into the envelopes “could take years.” According to a sheriff’s deputy at the scene, another agent at the scene said DeMulle should be considered “armed and dangerous.”
DeMulle’s relationship with publisher and community activist Tatulian has been particularly strained. The Foothill Record’s affect on the community since its inception in 2014 has been overwhelmingly positive, and DeMulle has reacted in an almost childlike fashion. He has sent local advertisers false and damaging flyers regarding Tatulian, including a photograph of her face “photoshopped” onto an obscene photograph of another woman’s body.
DeMulle also has accused Tatulian of inflating her publishing numbers, although Tatulian has provided invoices from her printer verifying her print run. DeMulle has not done so with his own newspaper.
Since being permanently barred from Facebook in July, DeMulle has created his own website, which he uses to publish biased, unfounded, and often racist stories about local organizations and leaders.
DeMulle also has posted Craigslist ads offering low rents or sale prices on homes owned by local residents, each of whom has been critical of him.
Everything Is Suspect
Everything connected with DeMulle is now suspect, from his college degree, which cannot be verified, to his “girlfriends,” including Brand, whose home he shares and who paid his bail. According to several neighbors who know him personally, DeMulle is also romantically linked to a number of other local women—all of whom continue to defend him.
DeMulle’s former attorney, Adam Harlan Braun, has since left as his counsel, following DeMulle’s declaration of bankruptcy on June 1. DeMulle was sent a letter by the courts on June 1, instructing him to pay the late $505 docketing and filing fee for his appeal. He is reportedly now being represented by a court-appointed attorney.
According to Federal prosecutor Gregory Lesser, the government cannot comment on any possible new filings against DeMulle. He is reportedly planning to file a motion for a new bond hearing in the case next week. As Lesser explained in an email to The Foothill Record, “The defendant’s new defense counsel requested an extension of time from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prepare DeMulle’s appellate brief, which was granted. DeMulle’s brief is now due—barring further extensions the Court of Appeals may grant—on December 26, 2017. After that, the government typically files a responsive brief. It is unclear if the appeals court will ask for oral arguments. If so, we have no idea at this point when arguments would be scheduled.”
Lesser continued, “We will not know the substance of DeMulle’s appeal and what specifically he is challenging until the opening brief is filed. By entering the type of plea he did—a `conditional plea’—he preserved the right to appeal the Court’s denial of his motions to dismiss the case, so those may be his grounds for appeal.
“Defendants in a sentencing are given points for accepting responsibility, which can lower their sentences,” Lesser explained. However, in this case, because DeMulle had filed false declarations, the judge mandated a longer sentence.
“If you lie,” said Lesser, “you’re going to get a longer sentence. He basically walked himself into a longer sentence,” Lesser added. Filing false declarations falls into the category of obstructing justice, Lesser explained.
“The defendant was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment, and in the federal system, every prisoner must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence,” he said.
DeMulle—through another girlfriend, Dyan McManus—also attempted to sue The Foothill Record in April 2017 for using a Facebook photograph of him in illustrating its story on his conviction. The case was dropped when The Record countersued him for using an earlier published photograph taken by a Foothill Record reporter, in his paper.
“A Pattern of Falsehoods”
There is a long, documented record of falsehoods with regard to DeMulle, ranging from accusations of his “stolen valor” after he falsely reported that he served as a U.S. Army combat photographer in the Vietnam War. He has also used fraudulent LA Sheriff’s Department media badges.
DeMulle was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison on May 22, 2017, after pleading guilty in December 2016 to a single charge of being a Prohibited Person in Possession of a Firearm.
Superior Court judge Otis D. Wright, following a 2-hour sentencing hearing at the U.S. Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles, gave DeMulle a longer sentence than the government had requested, because of an additional issue of obstruction of justice, which added nine months to the sentence.
Since then, DeMulle, a longtime critic of the Sunland-Tujunga community, has continued to attack local residents with unfounded “news” stories, actions that could threaten his current bail release.
DeMulle’s habitual lying also influenced the sentencing, as government sentencing guidelines generally call for 27 to 33 months in a case such as his. But as Judge Wright told DeMulle during the hearing, DeMulle had showed “a pattern of falsehoods.” Wright also told DeMulle that he was pronouncing the enhanced sentence “to bring home the seriousness of his misconduct.”
In a discussion of the sentencing with attorneys, Wright told DeMulle’s former attorney, Braun, that “everything is troubling,” and that DeMulle had “no credibility left, filing one frivolous motion after another” during the course of the case.
“You have supported your motions with falsehoods,” Wright told DeMulle. DeMulle’s credibility was questioned throughout the sentencing hearing.
DeMulle did not respond to The Foothill Record’s requests for comments on his case.