Judge reinstates charges against Murphy

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District Judge Mike Murphy

‘The Court refuses to be led into error because of what I consider to be incomplete briefing,’ Judge Leslie Smith says in explaining the reversal of his previous decision to drop the charges

The judge overseeing the bribery case against District Judge Mike Murphy has reinstated the felony indictment he dismissed last month and set a new trial date of Feb. 6.

In reinstating the indictment, Judge Leslie Smith essentially agreed with prosecutor Matt Chandler’s assertion that defense attorney Michael Stout had misled him into dismissing it last month – though he did not indicate that he believed the misleading was intentional, as Chandler has alleged.

“Failing to provide complete information can be just as misleading to a Court as purposefully giving inaccurate information,” Smith said in the order, which he issued today. “… The Court refuses to be led into error because of what I consider to be incomplete briefing.”

But with that statement, Smith was also pointing the finger at Chandler. For example, in one footnote about a previous judge’s ex parte order that Smith didn’t know about when he dismissed the charges, Smith wrote this:

“That information was relevant to the original motion to dismiss and to the Defendant’s motion to reconsider. Not only should the Defendant’s lawyer have shared that information, but the State should have responded to the original motion to reconsider and provided that pertinent detail.”

Smith told both attorneys to “provide the Court with the full and accurate information and authority” with the first motion they file on an issue in the future.

Read the full order here.

Stout had argued in his motion seeking dismissal of the indictment that the state failed to present exculpatory evidence – an argument Smith bought in dismissing the indictment. Chandler responded with his own motion that refuted each of several claims made by Stout and asked Smith to reconsider.

Chandler alleged at the time that Stout had “been disingenuous with the court regarding the history of this case and the state’s laws, and when the court hears all the facts and applies the applicable laws, we are hopeful that the court will revert to its original rulings and allow the state to proceed to a jury trial as scheduled.”

When the judge was presented with all the facts to which Chandler was referring, he agreed to reinstate the indictment. But he blamed both attorneys for not providing him with relevant facts.

Chandler pleased; Stout disappointed

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Chandler said today that he is “pleased with the court’s ruling.”

“We’re prepared to go to trial in February and bring much-needed resolution to both the state and the defendant, as well as the citizens of Doña Ana County,” he said.

Stout said little has changed.

“This is a disappointing legal reversal, but it doesn’t change the facts. Judge Murphy is innocent and that will stay true in the light of day before a trial jury and before the public,” he said. “The disappointment is in the secret proceeding; a fair grand jury presentation would have ended the case sooner. Nonetheless, we take this as an opportunity to pursue other issues and to make clear Judge Murphy’s innocence.”

“This is simply a bend in the road,” Stout said. “The destination will be the same – the vindication of Judge Murphy.”

The charges Murphy now faces

Following Smith’s decision to reinstate the indictment, here are the charges Murphy faces:

  • Demanding or receiving a bribe by a public employee, a third-degree felony.
  • Bribery of a public officer or employee, a third-degree felony.
  • Bribery, intimidation, or retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony
  • Criminal solicitation, a fourth-degree felony.
  • Another third-degree felony charge of bribery of a public officer or employee.

The first four charges are from the indictment Smith reinstated today. They’re based on allegations that Murphy solicited a bribe from potential judicial applicant Beverly Singleman, told District Judge Lisa Schultz to tell Singleman she needed to pay the bribe, and threatened to destroy Singleman’s reputation for telling others that he solicited a bribe from her.

The last charge is based on an incident in which Murphy is alleged to have offered “several promises” to District Judge Lisa Schultz in December 2010 if she would agree to be the tie-breaking vote to make Douglas R. Driggers the chief district judge in Las Cruces.

Smith did not reinstate a misdemeanor charge of violating the state’s Governmental Conduct Act. He has previously dismissed the charge, arguing that the statute isn’t criminal.

Chandler requested last week that the N.M. Supreme Court bypass the normal appeals process and rule on his motion to reinstate the misdemeanor, but the court rejected that request. Working through the normal appeals process, Chandler has now filed a request to reinstate the charge with the N.M. Court of Appeals.

Before the recent dismissal and reinstatement of the indictment, trial was set to begin Oct. 31. You can read Smith’s motion to reset the trial for Feb. 6 here.

This article has been updated to include Stout’s comments and to accurately portray Smith’s order. Due to my initial misinterpretation of Smith’s order, a prior version of this article highlighted Smith’s blaming of Stout for not providing him with relevant information but didn’t mention that the judge also pointed the finger at Chandler. I have corrected that error, and I apologize to Stout. In addition, this article originally stated that Murphy is charged with paying a bribe for his position, which is not accurate.

16 thoughts on “Judge reinstates charges against Murphy

  1. Why does the law allow for flip flopping. People need to know what they are doing or get someone who can get the job done right, the first time. Just a point of view here.

  2. I hesitate to get into this grade school argument, but I will point out a couple of things:

    1. Matt Chandler prosecuted the Curry County Treasurer for corruption-related charges. The Treasurer was Republican. Most officeholders in Curry County are Republican, although not all.

    2. Judge Murphy in Dona Ana County is a Democrat. Most officeholders in Dona Ana County are Democrats, although not all.

    3. Sheriff Solano in Santa Fe County is a Democrat. Most officeholders in Santa Fe County are Democrats, in fact, maybe all of them are.

    Putting aside partisan beliefs, it stands to reason that in counties with more Democratic than Republican officeholders, if someone is charged with corruption-related charges, they’re more likely to be a Democrat. The opposite holds true in Republican-majority counties.

    One other thing to note: Matt Chandler prosecuted the Curry County Treasurer. She pled guilty. He prosecuted Greg Solano. Solano pled guilty. In other words: they did it. Chandler didn’t “invent” laws that they pled guilty to. If he did, they should have fought it in court. But instead, they both pled guilty.

    One more thing: Judge Schultz and all the other witnesses (as far as I can tell) against Judge Murphy are Democrats. The judge that signed the warrant on the new charges is a Democrat. Are they all part of Chandler’s plot to benefit the Republican Party?

    Why doesn’t everybody step back and let the legal system take care of this? Quit looking at it through partisan eyes and see it for what it is: a crime is alleged, a defendant is charged, the state prosecutes, the defense will defend, and in the end, hopefully justice will be done.

  3. Judge Schultz’s recording of Judge Murphy might be considered unethical according to the American Bar Association

    “In the aftermath of Watergate, the ABA issued an opinion declaring that the surreptitious recording of telephone calls violated the Model Code. In ABA Formal Op. 337 (1974), the ABA reasoned that recording phone calls violated Canon 9 of the Model Code and DR 1-102(A)(4), which prohibited conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” The ABA reasoned that surreptitiously recording phone calls “clearly” involved dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresenation, and so as a result “no lawyer should record any conversation whether by tapes or other electronic device, without the consent or prior knowledge of all parties to the conversation.” Id.”

    http://www.hricik.com/eethics/1.3.html

  4. A slight correction: Hemingway is a participant in this discussion, though he as yet wasn’t when source1 invoked his name. That being said, it would hardly be fair of me to point out DA Chandler’s attempt to prosecute Judge Murphy for that which isn’t technically illegal were I not to point out to Hemingway that which JusticeP already did: Illinois law is hardly relevant to this case. Indeed, it’s merely a second example of our law not keeping up with public perceptions. I’ll be nice and not point out the grammatical error in the first sentence of the second post; source1 already used up my self-limit of only one act of obsessive-grammar correction per day.

  5. source1:

    I have never once in this conversation accused Governor Martinez of playing politics; indeed, I’ve never once even mentioned her name. Thus far in her term, I have only leveled that accusation at her once (some of her more perplexing vetoes after the first session being that once). Hemingway isn’t even a participant in this discussion. Are you so blinded by partisan fervor that you can no longer tell differentiate the opinions – nor even the very identities – of those with the temerity to disagree with you? I suggest that you stop assuming universal and homogenous views on the part of your opposition.

    Secondly, what is the “democrat party”? There is no such party in the United States, and an inability to use the first-grade part-of-speech known as an adjective does you no credit. Nor was I accusing Governor Martinez of conflating the Democratic Party with corruption; that accusation was leveled at the commenter “NorthernPride”. As for DA Chandler, he is smart enough never to say it out loud, but his actions speak for themselves. That the majority of corruption cases come from my own party is no surprise, being as we have had an overwhelming amount of the power in this state for decades. That much power comes with baggage, and while we are not always great at cleaning our own house, the Republican’s haven’t even tried to clean theirs; for that matter, they’ve not done a terribly good job of policing Democrats, either. They always seem to go after the wrong targets.

    As for Judges Perea, Schultz, and Smith, I would be “pointing fingers at them for being political” if they were to dismiss the charges out of hand; Chandler’s pettiness aside, we have a process in this country, and simply because one participant is trying to game the system would not excuse a lack of fidelity to it on the part of other participants.

    You lack perspective, source1. I am actually remarkably critical of my party, but the differences between my criticisms and your own is that mine are specific and relevant, whereas yours are merely general and borne of disagreement.

  6. It is so ironical that if this matter occurred in Illinois Judge Lisa Schultz would be in jail for illegally recording conversations. So what is justice? I guess it depends in what state you live in – what a joke.

  7. Hemingway:

    Since it is not the law in New Mexico, I think New Mexico will follow New Mexico law.

    On the other hand you– are saying that a court transcriptionist audio recording a judge in his duties is guilty of a class one felony in other states. I think your assertions are too general to be relevant.

  8. There are twelve states that require the consent of all parties to record a conversation. Those jurisdictions are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. This is inaccurately known as “two-party consent” laws. If there are two people involved in the conversation, all must consent to the taping.

    New Mexico does not have this law. If Ms. Schultz was in Illinois she could face a jail sentence. “Illinois is one of twelve states with “two-party consent” eavesdropping laws on the books; audio recording a civilian in Illinois is a felony with up to three years in prison the first time you do it and up to five years if you do it again; the penalties are much stiffer, though, if you record certain people: audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general, or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison”

  9. Icarcus,

    Between you and Hemingway… Gov Martinez or DA Chandler could pull a smalll dog from a burning fire and you would call it politics. I heard both of these people speak in Hobbs last year. Neither one of them ever said a bad word about the democrat party. They attacked corruption and never correlated the Dem party with corruption. However, everytime you highlight the corruption cases in NM, it is you that reminds everyone that a majority of corruption is coming from the dem party.

    The difference is, Republicans don’t care who you are — if you are breaking the law you deserve punishment and nobody is going to bail you out. Democrats (at least you and others like wedham and Hemingway) continue to make excuses in an attempt to protect the Dem party. Stop pointing fingers at those that are trying to protect us and this state. By the way, Judge Schultz, the witness that recorded and reported the illegal conduct is a Democrat and should be given a medal of courage and honor. Judge Perea, the judge that signed the warrant for Judge Murphy is a democrat appointed by Richardson and had no problem approving the charges. Why don’t you call them names and point fingers at them for being political?

  10. NorthernPride:

    No, I am not kidding you; Are you honestly telling me that you think Gary King’s reputation is a good thing for the Democratic Party? That being said, by implying that Democrats are by nature corrupt (i.e. “looks like a duck…”) you have made it clear that you are so self-limited and narrow-minded as to be psychologically incapable of understanding my point; specifically, that DA Chandler is, as usual, overstepping his authority.

  11. Icarus Phoenix:

    There are so many holes in your comments. 1st, you say Chandler creates “laws” where they suit his need…Last I checked, he has no law changing authority and a judge is there to call out the attorney’s if they are not following the law. 2nd, you state that Chandler only goes after the Democrats. All I can say to that is….if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck! And 3rd,” One thing no one can do is believe that anything AG King has done in office is a gain for the Democratic Party of New Mexico…”…..Are you kidding me????

  12. NorthernPride:

    As has been pointed out before, Matthew Chandler has an interesting habit of inventing laws where they suit his needs – the need being the prosecution of public officials for committing that which he considers the greatest sin, being registered Democrats. While Judge Murphy’s donations should be illegal, the reality of New Mexico’s law is that they quite simply aren’t. Incidentally, every official that the Attorney General has gone after has been a Democrat as well; just because Gary King is inept doesn’t mean that he isn’t going after corruption, and, unlike Mr. Chandler, he’s not doing it for the gain of his party. One thing no one can do is believe that anything AG King has done in office is a gain for the Democratic Party of New Mexico…

  13. How is this political? We all can agree that NM is riddled with corruption at all levels, yet when a DA seeks to uphold NM justice and take on the corruption we know is there, he is put down for it.

    Please reference Mr. Greg Salano. He is now in jail for his thievery and corruption within the SF police Dept. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we had an AG that did did half of what Chandler is doing now? Our state would be in much better condition.

    Thank you for what you do Mr. Chandler.