Controversial local publisher to stand trial on federal firearms charge
By Eddie Rivera, News Editor
Local newspaper owner David “Doc” DeMullé, publisher of The Foothills Paper, will stand trial in US District Court in January on a charge of being a Prohibited Person in Possession of Firearms and Ammunition.
According to an LAPD property report, the charge stems from a March 25, 2010, visit to DeMullé’s home on Tranquil Place in Tujunga, following a report of a live grenade at the address. An LAPD bomb technician, officer, and detective searched the home, located the grenade, and determined that it was inert.
During that visit and in a subsequent follow-up visit to DeMullé’s home and business, US Marshals, acting on a search warrant, located and seized 25 weapons—including pistols and shotguns—and more than 1,100 pounds of ammunition from DeMullé’s OSS Spectrum office on Foothill Boulevard in Tujunga and at his home. The multiagency operation, led by LA Police detective Matthew Vandersall, also a sworn agent with the US Marshals, uncovered a small arsenal of weapons, including a Remington model 870 12-gauge pump shotgun, a Glock .45 semiautomatic pistol, a Smith and Wesson model 642 .38 caliber revolver, and a Colt model Combat Commander .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol. A minimum of four of the seized weapons had no serial number.
A silencer—along with an instructional book on silencers—and a speedy loader also were recovered.
Following his March, 2010, arrest and arraignment before US District Court judge Frederick Mumm, DeMullé posted bail of $25,000 and surrendered his passport.
According to the indictment presented to the grand jury in March of 2015, “Such possession occurred after defendant DeMullé was convicted of at least one of the following felonies, each punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year: Obtaining Aid By Misrepresentation, in violation of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, section 10980, in October of 1990; and Perjury, in violation of California Penal Code section 118, also in October 1990.”
Although these charges were eventually expunged, the convictions still preclude DeMullé from owning or trading in weapons. The indictment was signed by a team of five US attorneys, including three from the Violent and Organized Crime Section of the US Attorney’s Office.
The charge and upcoming trial were prompted by an advertisement in the March, 2010, issue of The Foothills Paper, placed by DeMullé, which stated, in part: “The Organization for Strategic Studies and The Foothills Paper have a new way of getting rid of guns, keep them off the streets, and out of the hands of criminals while helping the earthquake victims of Haiti.”
DeMullé’s page 9 advertisement then directed people to send their guns to his office, “… and then we send money, not guns for the earthquake victims in Haiti.”
The advertisement caught the eye of the LAPD, who assigned Vandersall to investigate further, prompting the raid on DeMullé’s home and office.
“Wrap the gun in bubble wrap and ship in a cardboard box packed with styrofoam peanuts,” instructed the ad.
The ad also implored donors not to send guns or ammo via the US Postal Service and not to “take any guns to your church or police department.” DeMullé, who is not a licensed firearms dealer and who does not possess a federal firearms license, also told potential donors, “It might be easier for you to deliver them [the guns] in person to our office.”
The arrest and upcoming trial are only the latest brush with the law for DeMullé, whose known criminal history goes back to a firearms arrest in 1966, when he and a compatriot were visited by Riverside police, investigating a case of an unregistered machine gun, owned by steel company laborer and World War II memorabilia collector Jack Tomlin.
DeMullé’s friend Tomlin, who died in 2010, also was hoarding a cache of weapons that The New York Times, in its Sunday, July 3, 1966, issue, described as a “private arsenal consisting of dynamite, booby traps, machine guns, and solid fuel rocket propellant.”
According to the NY Times story, DeMullé told the arresting officers that “a substantial amount of the arms and explosives had been abandoned by the US Army after maneuvers,” a charge the Army promptly denied, saying that clean-up crews carefully pick up all materials after maneuvers. DeMullé also claimed that he had once seen a “truck painted with swastikas cruising the desert looking for weapons.”
The arrest and DeMullé’s implausible assertions prompted a congressional investigation into the presence of right-wing extremist groups in Southern California.
DeMullé eventually was charged with possession of TNT, tear gas, smoke grenades, and other weapons, according to the NY Times.
The upcoming January trial is the fifth continuation of the case, as DeMullé and his attorney have used a number of rationales to extend the trial date.
DeMullé and his attorney, Adam Harlan Braun, also asked the court last year to dismiss all the charges, arguing that DeMullé was the “target of LAPD retaliation” as a result of articles he had written and published in his own newspaper.
However, US attorneys Eileen Decker, Lawrence Middleton, and Gregory Lessor, arguing for the US government in a July, 2016, consolidated response, said that, “Relying upon innuendo, specious assumptions and factual assertions ranging from misleading to outright false, [DeMullé] argues … that his prosecution for being a formerly convicted felon in possession of dozens of firearms is in retaliation for articles that have appeared in his newspaper that were critical of the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”). This is untrue. The investigating LAPD detectives were entirely unaware of defendant, his newspaper, or anything in it the time they began their investigation.
“Defendant further makes the legal leap,” the response continued, “unsupported by any applicable authority and failing even to mention the controlling authority, that if the investigation of him were conducted because of his speech, such purported retaliation warrants the dismissal of the indictment handed down by the Grand Jury against him. His (motion) therefore has no basis in fact or law and should be denied.”
Responding to yet another argument by DeMullé, the consolidated response notes that the “Defendant deceptively asserts that, ‘according to LAPD Detective Vandersall’s account, Detective Vandersall “serendipitously stumbled upon the Foothills Paper”“ containing the Guns for Haiti Ad. Det. Vandersall gave no such account, and the evidence to which defendant cites does not support defendant’s embellished assertion.”
DeMullé had argued that the detective “stalked” and “targeted” him in the process of the investigation.
The US attorneys’ response also noted that “[DeMullé] then misleadingly inflates the word ‘observed’ as used by SA Goerke to ‘serendipitously stumbled upon’ to claim that the manner in which Det. Vandersall stated that he encountered the Guns for Haiti Ad is not credible. [DeMullé] elected not to attach the search warrant and arrest report, authored by Det. Vandersall, in which Vandersall states that he was “assigned” to investigate, and that he ‘received,’ and ‘reviewed’ a copy of The Foothills Paper.”
In other words, DeMullé did not include a document that would have directly contradicted his argument.
The consolidated response continued, “As Detectives Vandersall and Jerry Kowalski declared in a deposition, their supervisor assigned them to investigate the Guns for Haiti Ad. [DeMullé] elsewhere (without a shred of evidence) claims that Detective Vandersall `manufactured’ his account of his receipt of the Foothills Paper containing the Guns for Haiti Ad while `stalking’ and `targeting’ defendant.
“[DeMullé],” the response continued, “also claims that the lack of a more detailed LAPD report regarding the `genesis of the investigation,’ is somehow nefarious. This is baseless. Officers typically do not write a report about the actions of their supervisors in giving them an assignment, and defendant’s tortured efforts to cast some corrupt patina to the absence of such a report highlight the lack of any factual support for his claims.”
DeMullé’s assertions of conspiracies and plots against him were rejected by the court, which continued him to trial.
Meanwhile, in arguing for the January continuation, Braun wrote that, “[DeMullé] is charged with one count of violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm in 2010. However, this is not a typical `felon in possession’ case, as discussed at length in the pending motions filed by defendant and the Government. In addition, the Indictment alleges defendant’s possession in 2010 of approximately 25 firearms and 1,100 pounds (not `rounds’) of ammunition, certain of which, the defense contends, may not have been in fact possessed by defendant.”
Braun asserted, “as part of the defense of this case, defense counsel will need to continue to review the 6 CDs of discovery that have been produced by the Government, and to inspect and evaluate the seized firearms and the manner and location in which these firearms were stored at the time of the law enforcement search of defendant’s home and residence.”
Which takes us to January, 2017.
DeMullé has long been a controversial figure in the Sunland-Tujunga community since beginning his newspaper in 2003. (Disclosure: This reporter worked as an editor at The Foothills Paper in 2004–2005, until terminated for editing out a racist passage that denigrated Mexican Americans in DeMullé’s “View from the Rock” column.)
DeMullé’s newspaper, which covers local and community news, also serves as an outlet for DeMullé’s criticisms, often aimed at those in the community who he claims have slighted or otherwise wronged him. The newspaper and its accompanying Facebook page also feature graphic photographs and videos of vehicle accidents, as well as reports on local fires, also with photographs. (A scanner on DeMullé’s desk alerts him to fires and accidents.)
DeMullé’s credentials for visiting local police and fire scenes are also suspect, since the various law enforcement and fire press credentials he wears have been reportedly fabricated. A felon cannot be approved for law enforcement press credentials, which are numbered and registered and require a background check. (In 2004, this reporter was asked by DeMullé to provide his LAPD press credential to him to be photocopied so that he could create his own badge. This reporter refused and another staffer reportedly provided him her badge to copy.)
Meanwhile, DeMullé’s targets for criticisms have included immigrants, namely Armenians; the homeless; the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council and its board members; the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce; and a host of local residents and businesses.
The trial of United States of America, plaintiff, vs. David DeMullé, defendant, will begin January 24, 2017, in US District Court in Los Angeles.
EDITORS’ NOTE: Our sincere thanks to photographer Dyan McManus for her photos of David DeMulle, featured in our October 2016 article, “Lawyers, Guns and Money: Controversial Local Publisher Faces Federal Charges.”