Mendocino County probation officers are arguing for a 12-month suspended jail term for former Ukiah Police Sgt. Kevin Murray. It is a move vigorously opposed by the high-powered defense team who negotiated a plea bargain that saw prosecutors agree to strike three sex felonies from the disgraced cop’s criminal case.
The probation call for a suspended jail term is a new twist to the planned sentencing of Murray, now scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
A suspended sentence is where a judge orders jail or prison time, but delays imposing it in order to allow a defendant to serve time on probation. If a defendant violates probation, the judge can impose the original term. In criminal law, a suspended sentence and probation are two different things. A suspended sentence is a type of court-imposed penalty for a crime. Probation, though, is a lesser type of alternative to jail where a defendant serves his sentence in the community under the supervision of the judge or a probation officer.
Murray as part of his plea deal with Mendocino County prosecutors entered no contest pleas to a felony charge of intimidating a witness – the woman in the motel room – and a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge related to a person identified in court documents only as “Jane Doe,” but believed to be the woman in Lake County who has said Murray twice in 2014 forced her to perform a sex act on him.
In its unreleased report, the probation office apparently cites objections to a non-jail sentence from the Lake County victim as among the need for a 12-month jail term to be imposed.
Santa Rosa defense attorney Stephen Gallenson late Friday filed a formal objection to the probation office recommendation with Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman.
Gallenson contends that the probation department is going beyond the terms of an analysis and evaluation agreed upon when the plea deal on Murray’s behalf was negotiated.
“Extensive discussion took place between the Court and the counsel prior to the change of plea in this matter,” Gallenson wrote Judge Moorman.
“This was a negotiated disposition and the Court indicated that it did not intend to impose any additional jail time so long as there were no surprises regarding Mr. Murray’s background,” said Gallenson.
Now, citing in its report a letter from the Lake County woman, Gallenson said the probation office is asking for a suspended 12-month jail term.
“The Probation Report confirms Mr. Murray’s lack of criminal history, his service in the military, the time already incarcerated, and his remorse and recognition of the negative impact of his conduct,” according to Gallenson.
Gallenson said Murray remains sober after attending a 30-day alcohol treatment program since his firing, and he is “actively engaged in mental health treatment.”
Judge Moorman is being asked by Gallenson to “…follow its initial indication and impose no further jail time,” suspended or otherwise.
Gallenson filed letters of support in favor of probation only for Murray, from his third wife, and friends and family members.
Heather Murray said she and Murray started dating and later married after he completed a 30-day inpatient alcohol treatment program in early 2017. Together they are raising four children ages 7-17 at their home in Lakeport.
“We have struggled to shelter our children from the hateful comments on social media, and the backlash of being in the public eye,” wrote Heather Murray.
Heather Murray is a nurse by profession, and she said, “My decision to stay married to my husband amidst the multitude of allegations has cost me friendships I valued, respect I worked hard to earn, and the ability to move on with my life but I would have missed out on the opportunity to love someone unconditionally.”
“Any further jail time will not only hinder his personal progress but will also be extremely detrimental to our four children who have had to watch this chapter in our lives unfold from the sidelines,” she wrote.
Jennifer Sperber, the mother of Murray’s two oldest children, also wrote the court in favor of no further jail time. She said they met in 2003 while both served as military police officers overseas in Iraq. They were divorced in 2011, in part because “he struggled with alcohol throughout our marriage.”
But now he is sober, maintaining his sobriety, and actively engaged in rearing his children, she said.
“He is consistent, and dependable, always putting the children first.”