Why Brandon Mullock chose to make up details in his police reports when there was ample evidence to support his allegations might never be known.
But during his sentencing in Sacramento Superior Court on Friday – the final chapter in the former police officer's fall from grace – a picture emerged of a broken man, one drawn to public service but crippled by the intense emotional pressure that comes with it.
Neither Mullock nor his loved ones could explain his actions. Instead, they said he was a good man with valiant intentions – but that maybe he was never meant to be a cop in the first place.
"He was just not cut out for a job like this," his tearful fiancée, Lindsey Smith, told the court.
Now the 28-year-old Mullock will never serve as a peace officer again. On Friday morning, he was taken into custody and sent to the Sacramento County Main Jail, where he will serve a one-year sentence and then five years of probation.
Should he violate the terms of that probation, Mullock will go to state prison to complete a five-year sentence suspended by Judge Patrick Marlette.
The sentence stemmed from Mullock's admission to three counts of falsifying police reports and one count of perjury, all felonies.
In 2010, the District Attorney's Office dismissed 79 cases in which Mullock, a former Sacramento police officer, was a principal witness. Investigators found that his reports in those cases didn't match events depicted by in-car camera videos. Prosecutors also said he lied under oath during hearings or on license suspension forms.
Many of the cases involved drunken drivers, and subsequent blood tests confirmed the defendants had been under the influence. But District Attorney Jan Scully said questions about Mullock's credibility posed legal and ethical challenges to prosecution.
Seventy-three of the cases already had ended in convictions; all had to be overturned. Fees and suspended driving privileges had to be returned. Scully initially charged Mullock with 34 felonies, the majority of which were dismissed as part of the plea deal.
In court Friday, nobody argued that Mullock had acted with malice. So, in determining a sentence, Marlette had to weigh cries for leniency against the significance – legal and symbolic – of the man's offenses.
Mullock's family members and loved ones said he had long dreamed of serving the public, first as a firefighter and later as a police officer. But even as a child, he had been subjected to trauma – his biological father left him at a young age, and at some point he was the victim of abuse.
As a police officer, Mullock saw "awful things," his mother, Liz Silva, wrote to the judge in asking for leniency.
Ultimately he sought help from the Police Department's Peer Support Program and attended a one-week retreat for suicidal cops and firefighters.
"He expressed that he was afraid to go to sleep because of the daily nightmares of the visions of all these scenes," Silva wrote. "These thoughts and nightmares haunted him, and continue to do so today."
When he returned to work, his supervisors felt the DUI team was a safe place for him, a unit where he could be closely supervised.
Mullock embraced the job, his loved ones said. He had been to crime scenes involving drunken drivers and lost a man he regarded as an uncle in a DUI collision. He felt a sense of purpose, he and family members told the court.
"Brandon was doing what he thought was right," one of his attorneys, Jeff Schaff, told Marlette. "He was doing it in a negligent way, but at the end of the day he was getting drunk drivers off the streets."
But his drive and his desire to please were likely part of his undoing, his loved ones said. Coupled with his sleepless nights and emotional distress, attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder, he got in over his head, they said.
"The trauma was building and building," Smith said. "His heart was in the right place. He was just so eager to be the best."
She went on to express her fiancé's remorse: "He lives this nightmare of a mistake each and every day."
Mullock, emotional throughout the hearing, apologized to his friends and family, the District Attorney's Office and "my fellow brothers and sisters, for making an already difficult job even more difficult by placing a question mark behind every badge .
"I have brought shame to many of you," he said.
Mullock said he never meant harm – that he instead wanted to get drunken drivers off the streets – but that he accepted responsibility.
"It's time to let the people of Sacramento know their officers can be trusted and those who cannot will be punished," he said.
Careful not to attack Mullock's character, Deputy District Attorney Chris Carlson instead focused on the ramifications of his actions.
He said Mullock had committed a "great assault on the criminal justice system" by lying in his reports. He noted that the majority of cases prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office end in plea bargains and that police reports are critical to that system.
"We all rely on the integrity of the police officers filling out (their reports)," Carlson said.
In measured tones, Marlette expanded on Carlson's points, saying repeatedly that Mullock's actions violated a key underpinning of the American justice system.
"The thing that distinguishes our country is due process. A person has rights and those rights have to be honored," he said. "There is not a greater insult to our criminal justice system than denying the rights of the accused."
He acknowledged that other evidence supported Mullock's claims that the suspects he stopped had been under the influence. But he stressed that the former officer had tainted the process.
"Every one of those stops was a righteous stop," he said. "(The drivers) should have been punished; they were not, and that falls on Mr. Mullock."
The judge denied defense pleas to allow Mullock time at home before reporting to serve his sentence.
"Mr. Mullock is close to destroyed today," Marlette said, adding that he was ordering him into custody immediately "for his own well-being, and frankly for his own safety."
As his family members wept, Mullock stood and offered his hands behind his back.
The bailiff instead ushered him out of public view before handcuffs could be heard clicking into place.
Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @Kim_Minugh.