City of Pasadena issues details encompassing USC’s Puliafito’s wild drug party that resulted in overdose in local hotel
By Terry Miller
USC’s Dean of Keck Medical School Carmen Puliafito has garnered international headlines for a while now regarding an incident in a Pasadena hotel last March that has all the makings for a major melodramatic motion picture, soon to be at a theater near you.
A young prostitute, wild parties complete with an ample supply of drugs, prescription and otherwise were the foundations of the Puliafito parties loosely disguised as fundraisers for the medical school.
In one fell-swoop, Puliafito was brought down and subsequently caused a scandal that rocked the prestigious school.
According to the NY Times, “Around Los Angeles, Dr. Puliafito garnered attention as a kind of bon vivant at glittery parties, grinning for the camera alongside celebrities like Pierce Brosnan, Martin Short and Jay Leno while bringing in as much as $9 million in a single night. But last week, this city was abuzz when a different side of the dean came to light after a scandalous report in The Los Angeles Times detailed how he associated with criminals and used drugs on campus, with some escapades captured in videos.”
In an effort to be transparent after numerous requests from multiple media outlets, the City of Pasadena has now released copies of that incident report, the property seizure report, a dispatch timeline and two recordings of police interviews—one with Dr. Carmen Puliafito at Huntington Memorial Hospital and another with hotel staff—regarding the March 4, 2016 drug overdose of a woman at a Pasadena hotel.
City Manager Steve Mermell authorized the release of the documents and recordings Tuesday.
Now USC is under intense scrutiny over the circumstances of Dr. Puliafito’s exit from the school’s leadership and whether the administration ‘deliberately turned a blind eye to problems with a prodigious fund-raiser,’ according to a report in the New York Times.
“Due to the public interest in this matter regarding Dr. Puliafito’s interaction with Pasadena police, the City is releasing these documents and the recordings,” City Manager Mermell said. “We want to assure the public that our officer responded and investigated the incident. The recordings clearly show no one, including Dr. Puliafito, attempted to influence the officer or have him dismiss the incident in any way.”
The audio recordings are being publicly released for the first time today, July 25, 2017, less than one week after a copy of the recordings was first provided to the City Manager on July 19, 2017. Previously, redacted copies of the written reports were released to the news media under the California Public Records Act that permits redactions as part of the process prior to release. The Pasadena Police Department continues to review its records for additional information that can be released regarding this incident.
The documents and recordings reveal details of the Pasadena Police Department’s response to the medical aid/overdose call of March 4, 2016. The officer went first to the hospital where the overdose victim was transported by Pasadena Fire Department paramedics and then he went to the local hotel where the incident was reported to have occurred.
Police Chief Phillip L. Sanchez said there are four important factors that explain why no arrests or citations were made, including:
– Police usually do not arrest victims who are hospitalized for overdosing on drugs or alcohol; nor do they automatically arrest or cite people who report an overdose or who are at the hospital with an overdose victim.
– There was, and still is, no evidence in the possession of the Pasadena Police Department that Dr. Puliafito committed a crime the night of March 4, 2016 in Pasadena.
– The 1.16 grams of methamphetamine found inside an unoccupied hotel room were not in anyone’s physical possession, limiting any value as possible evidence for prosecution.
– There was no way to determine how many visitors, registered guests or hotel staff had access to the room that night, nor how many people had gone in and out of the room prior to the arrival of police.
“The officer filled out a property report that night,” Sanchez said, “and he preserved the evidence and documented the confiscation of methamphetamine in a timely manner. The officer also conducted and recorded an interview of Dr. Puliafito, correctly preserving his statement and ultimately writing a report on June 8, 2016. We do recognize that the incident report was not written in a timely manner in conjunction with the property report.”
Sanchez noted the Pasadena Police Department regularly makes arrests and/or issues misdemeanor citations for even small quantities of illegal drugs, including methamphetamines. In those cases, the officers had either found the persons to be in direct physical possession of the drugs or they were able to show a link between the persons and the drugs sufficient enough to support an arrest or citation, he said.
“Had officers arrived at a drug party where possession and consumption of illegal narcotics was clearly visible, or if this had been a fatal overdose, the law enforcement response would have been very different,” said Sanchez.
Both City Manager Mermell and Chief Sanchez continue to review the incident. As appropriate, further announcements will be made and responses to public record requests will be posted to the website.
Chief Sanchez added that “every day, we strive to ensure our service always meets the highest standards possible, I stand firm in assisting City Manager Mermell in a thorough review of this situation because we always need to learn where our performance can be improved.”
The following is a summary of the timeline related to a patrol call for service on March 4, 2016.
– 03/04/2016, 17:09 hours: Pasadena Police Department (PPD) dispatch received a call from a hotel employee requesting medical services to 928 E. Colorado Blvd (DusitD2 Hotel Constance).
– 03/04/2016, 17:10 hours: Unit 2L55 was dispatched to a Pasadena Fire Department (PDF) Assist/ possible overdose call wherein PFD was already on scene. The employee reported an individual possibly overdosed on crystal methamphetamine.
– 03/04/2016, 17:17 hours: 2L55 broadcasted that he was conducting a traffic stop, interrupting his response to the hotel.
– 03/04/2016, 17:25 hours: 2L56 dispatched self to the overdose call at 928 E. Colorado Blvd. Dispatch advised 2L56 that PFD had already transported the patient to the hospital.
– 03/04/2016, 17:27 hours: Incident history noted status change to reflect 2L56 assigned call.
– 03/04/2016, 17:29 hours: 2L55 cancelled from the call due to 2L56’s assignment.
– 03/04/2016, 17:34 hours: 2L56 arrived at local area hospital.
– 03/04/2016, 17:34 – 18:06 hours: 2L56 conducted interviews with hospital medical staff, with PFD RA transporting unit, with witness Dr. Carmen Puliafito in hospital waiting room, and with hospital social worker.
– 03/04/20,16 18:06 hours : 2L56 broadcasted that he was enroute to 928 E. Colorado Blvd. to conduct follow-up.
– 03/04/2016, 18:17 hours: 2L56 arrived at hotel.
– 03/04/2016, 18:26 hours: On the police radio, 2L55 asked 2L56 to go to police frequency three (3). On frequency three (3) 2L56 asked 2L55 to respond to hotel to assist him with the call.
– 03/04/2016, 18:28 hours: 2L55 advised Dispatch that he is responding to the hotel to assist.
– 03/04/2016, 18:48 hours: 2L56 cleared the call verbalizing 10-98 with PFD assist and he requested a case number for a Found Property Report. The officer subsequently completed a Property & Evidence Report under case number 16003313 noting that 1.16 grams of methamphetamine was collected and booked into the PPD’s Property/Evidence Room. 2L55 also cleared the call.
– 06/08/2016, 0021 hours: Officer requested the incident history note modification to Overdose classification. PPD officer completed Overdose report.